Bangkok Post, 15 March 2008
Naypyidaw, Burma – Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has committed Thailand to an investment accord with Burma under which Thailand will try to boost the economy and help the military regime.
Mr Samak and his Burmese counterpart Gen Thein Sein witnessed the signing of the investment pact during Mr Samak’s one-day visit to Burma on Friday.
The agreement was kept secret until Mr Samak arrived back in Thailand.
The accord reportedly protects Thai investors, although Mr Samak’s aides have not presented details on that part of the still confidential agreement.
Thailand will discuss taking part in Burmese plans to built a deep sea port at Tavoey opposite Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, and commits the Thai government to press Thai business leaders to invest in the port project and other unspecified projects sponsored by the military regime.
It was a major step forward to helping the so-called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) rulers. Previous Thai governments have not opposed investment in Burma, but have seldom committed the country to directly aiding Burmese government projects.
Thailand is already one of Myanmar‘s largest investors and trading partners, with Thai state-owned energy firms being the largest buyers of natural gas from that country.
Mr Samak and Gen Thein Sein witnessed the signing of the agreement after holding bilateral talks soon after his arrival in the new Burmese capital. Prior to the signing, Mr Samak met SPDC chairman Senior General Than Shwe at the Bayintnauang Yeiktha Building in Naypyidaw.
Mr Samak later presided at the opening of a new office building in the Thai embassy in Rangoon, the biggest Burmese city and former capital.
The pemier said during the opening ceremony that he had ordered Thai ambassadors worldwide to operate a “one-stop service” to facilitate foreigners wishing to invest or explore investment possibility in Thailand.
Before returning to Bangkok, Mr Samak presented his government’s policy to “Team Thailand” officials at the embassy, then met about 500 Thais, mainly from the business community, hotel staff and personal care workers and beauticians.
Mr Samak told a TNA reporter that he had received sufficient information from Snr Gen Than Shwe on military-ruled Burma‘s plans for its self-designated “roadmap to democracy”.
The Thai premier said he would inform the leaders of European countries when he visits them in future and that he would speak at the UN General Assembly in September.
Leaders of military-ruled Burma last month made a surprise announcement that it would hold a referendum in May on a draft constitution and would hold a general election in 2010. These alleged elections have won strong endorsement from the Thai government.
The elections will be the first since detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but the party’s victory was never recognised by the junta.
“The information is vital for countries interested (in Burma) and Snr Gen Than Shwe also expressed during the talks that he wanted to see peace in the country,” said Mr Samak.