Burma fuels Thailand
Bangkok Post, 8 April 2008
Natural gas exports to Thailand alone earned the country $2.7 billion, accounting for a 2007 trade surplus of $3.1 billion.
In 2007, Burma’s total trade hit an historic peak of $8.7 billion, split into 5.9 billion exports and 2.8 billion in imports, leaving the country with a trade surplus of $3.1 billion, said the Myanmar Times weekly, citing government officials.
Burma’s exports last year were driven primarily by natural gas, which earned the impoverished country $2.7 billion, or 45 per cent of its total exports.
“The major reason why Burma’s trade volume is increasing is the massive contribution form the energy sector – the export of natural gas to Thailand,” said Maung Maung, an economist and researcher from Economic Studies and Research Institute, the Union of Burma Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (UMFCCI).
Natural gas exports have risen dramatically since 2002, when Burma first opened a pipeline to deliver gas from offshore reserves in the Gulf of Martaban to Thailand.
“As a result, Burma has enjoyed consecutive trade surplus since 2002,” said Burma’s Commerce Minister Brigadier General Tin Naing Thein in a recent interview.
Besides natural gas, Burma’s main export items last year included agricultural products, amounting to $572 million in earnings, gems and jewellery to 561 million, and fishery products to 366 million.
Most multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank severed their programmes with Burma in 1988 following a brutal military crackdown on a pro-democracy movement that left more than 3,000 people dead.
The US forbade its private sector from investing in the country in the early 1990s, after the ruling junta refused to acknowledge the outcome of the 1990 general election, and the European Union has placed visa restrictions on the regime’s rulers.
US and EU sanctions were tightened after another crackdown on protesters in September, when a sudden doubling of fuel prices prompted demonstrators, led by Buddhist monks, to take to the street on Rangoon.
The latest incident left at least 31 dead, according to the official media. (dpa)