Army chief urges Ranong boost

Army chief urges Ranong boost

Covid easing needed to help trade

THE LOWDOWN: Army commander Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae (right) is briefed on security issues during his tour of Ranong which borders Myanmar on Saturday.
THE LOWDOWN: Army commander Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae (right) is briefed on security issues during his tour of Ranong which borders Myanmar on Saturday.

Ranong: Army commander Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae is calling for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions to revive trans-border trade with Myanmar's Kawthaung.

The commander made the call on Saturday in Ranong, where he was inspecting a security surveillance operation along the Andaman coast. He toured the border checkpoint at Koh Saranee, which is under the Thep Satree task force.

Gen Narongphan said the public health scare has halted the local economies of both sides of the border.

Myanmar has been battling the spread of Covid-19, while Ranong province is doing all it can to keep the disease out. Travel restrictions between both Thailand and Myanmar have resulted in bilateral trade being shunted.

The army chief yesterday said Ranong has experienced no problems in keeping Covid-19 out, while Myanmar's Kawthaung has recorded low transmission numbers with only three people infected with the virus.

Ranong could follow the example of Phuket, he said, where border control has been relaxed to allow some foreign tourists to return. The tourists are subject to quarantine measures, he said.

Local media reported a group of 120 visitors from China's Guangzhou city were supposed to arrive in Phuket on Oct 8. However, the trip was said to be postponed after Phuket authorities raised concerns they might not have the manpower to deal with their arrival. Their arrival would have coincided with Phuket's annual vegetarian festival.

Yesterday at Ranong, Gen Narongphan said if border control was eased to an extent, people from both sides could resume work and trade.

"After reviewing the Covid-19 data, we're convinced we can take care of the public health situation here in Ranong," the commander said. "But we also need to consider how far the easing [of the restrictions] will go."

During his visit to Koh Saranee, Gen Narongphan was briefed on freighter and passenger traffic through the port in the area. Koh Saranee is where customs and immigration checks are performed on all vessels as well as freights and passengers.

According to local authorities, 160 vessels per day on average called on the port. After the pandemic struck early this year, traffic has gone down significantly to about 40 vessels a day, they said. Gen Narongphan said people and businesses on both sides of the border relied on each other.

In terms of security, there has been no incident involving border encroachment, he said, noting current border problems include drug trafficking and illegal entry.

While acknowledging that it is impossible to plug the porous border, the army chief said bilateral relations with Myanmar have remained on an amicable terms.

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