Thai security against proposed new crossborder coal road

The planned 60km passage between Burma’s Shan State and Thailand’s Chiangrai province as proposed by Saraburi Coal Mining, a subsidiary of Ital-Thai, has run into opposition by officials concerned with security along the border, reported The Manager Online on 23 January.

28 January 2009

Somchai Rungsarkhon, chief officer of Mae Fa Luang district, cited the area on the Thai side as being part of the National Park and the narrowness of the road on the Thai side especially between the border and Pasang, a stretch of some 90 km.
Meanwhile, a border security source raised the long-standing problem of drug trafficking along the border and expressed concern that it will worsen when the road is built. He also pointed out the continued tension between the Burma Army and the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) South in the area.
Lt-Col Gawnzeun, Commander of the SSA’s Kengtung Force based at Loi Gawwan, agreed. “You will remember that the military confrontations between Burma and Thailand in both 2001 and 2002 began with the SSA’s attacks on drug caravans escorted by the Burma Army units,” he reminded SHAN. “Maejok (the border village on the Burmese side where the proposed road with pass through) has long been a well known transit point for drugs.”

An SSA column, commanded by Capt Liangzeun, had attacked the village on 8 February 2002, put the Infantry Battalion 244 commanded by Maj Tin Lin to rout and seized and destroyed more than 500,000 speed pills. The incident was recorded and aired by Thai TV Channel 7.
An elder from Ban Thoed Thai also brushed off Saraburi’s argument that the proposed passage would shorten the distance. “Maejok is about 10 km south of Yawngkha (former drug-free project site initiated by Thailand, 2002-2005), which means the distance between Mongkok (where the coal concession has reportedly been given by Naypyitaw) and Yawngkha is 50 km,” he said. “From Yawngkha to Tachilek, it is about the same distance, totaling 100 km. But if the proposed road project is approved, the company will have to build and rebuild 60 km inside Burma and 90 inside Thailand, totaling 150 km.”
Gawnzeun thinks the planned project has been masterminded by the Burma Army with the aim to destroy the SSA. “After the road has been built, the junta can terminate the concession with Saraburi anytime,” he warns.
Saraburi has been granted a 30-year contract, according to the Manager Online