By Ei Ei Thu | Wednesday, 17 June 2015
A new border crossing between Kayah State and Thailand is expected to open later this year, a move that Myanmar hopes will help boost tourism and regional development in the remote state, U Nyunt Aung, the deputy director of Ministry of Commerce, told The Myanmar Times yesterday.
“We sent a request to Thailand via the Thai ambassador on May 21. We are ready to open the border gate as soon as we receive a reply from them,” U Nyunt Aung said.
The new crossing would connect Myanmar’s Mese with Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, U Nyunt Aung said, adding that a bridge has already been built across the Thanlwin River 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the border on the Myanmar side.
U Nyunt Aung said plans to open the new crossing were made in response to requests from the people of Kayah State for help in developing their home region. Officials in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province had also suggested that the border be opened to facilitate trade between the two countries.
“Transportation is getting better, so the new border gate will be able to handle trade to and from Kayah State, Shan State and Mandalay,” he said.
U Maung Maung Than, the director general of the Ministry of Immigration, said he did not know when the new gate would open, but added that when it does Myanmar will issue seven-day visas and border passes at the crossing.
Kayah State’s limited tourism infrastructure – just eight hotels with a total of 175 rooms, according to figures from the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism – is already feeling the strain of the small number of visitors to the area, said U Myint Htwe, director of Ministry of Hotel and Tourism.
“The situation for Kayah State is difficult, but we are preparing by offering tour guide and hospitality training to local people to raise their awareness about tourism,” he said. “We are also negotiating with travel companies to create itineraries for Kayah State based on adventure trips and cross-country travel.”
U Aung Zaw Moe, secretary of Kayah State government, told The Myanmar Times that he welcomed such developments “because they will create many job opportunities for local residents. Kayah State is not yet ready yet for booming tourism, but we can handle visitors to some extent. It will benefit our people.”
U Phyo Wai Yar Zar, chair of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing Committee, said Kayah can benefit from cross-border visitors from Thailand as well as from tourists arriving from farther afield.
“All business sectors concerned with tourism will develop if more visitors come to Kayah State,” he said. “Myanmar National Airlines already flies to Loikaw, and Air KBZ is planning to add Loikaw flights as well. The more business we get, the more opportunities the local people will have.”