Thai leader looks for Burma economic openings

06-Oct-2011 Intellasia | Radio Australia News | 7:01 AM Print This Post

The Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is expected to seek to revive a special economic relationship with Burma when she makes an official visit on Wednesday.

Dr Paul Chambers, director of research at Thailand’s Payap University, told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific programme he sees the trip as the beginning of a renewal of the national relationship started by Yingluck’s brother, the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Her visit comes in the wake of Burma’s suspension of a controversial Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam last week.

The action surprised those who fear China’s growing influence in the resource-rich country.


Some see the dropping of the $3.66 billion project as meaning Burma is trying to be less reliant on China as a foreign investor.

Ms Yingluck may find out on her visit.

Dr Chambers said: “I think Yingluck is trying to reinforce the policy of ‘forward engagement’ of the Thaksin Shinawatra government back in 2001 and 2006.

“And that policy was seeking to increase investments – Thai investments and Thai economic clout in Burma.

“She’s trying to show the Burmese government that as another Shinawatra in the prime minister’s seat, that she’s seeking to have very close economic ties, increased ties with Burma.”

He believes Thailand could be well placed if China is kept out of the hydro project.

“Thailand has the potential to really use a lot of resources, economic resources from Burma, petroleum, hydro-electric power, gas, all sorts of things, which are needed to really boost Thailand’s growing economy.”

He does not see the Thai leader pushing to meet democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I think that Yingluck’s policy is much more economics-driven, than in terms of trying to work with human rights leaders or other opposition leaders in Burma.

“Yingluck might want to have discussions with Aung San Suu Kyi, but I don’t think that she will. I would be very surprised, and that she would probably just meet with the officials of the state.”


Category: Regional

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