Ambassade Rapport Gouden Driehoek
Ambassade Rapport Gouden Driehoek en Mae Sai
De Nederlandse ambassade heeft dit rapport naar aanleiding een inspectie bezoek op 17 en 18 mei 2022 aan de Gouden Driehoek en Mae Sai naar het Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken (MinBuZa) gestuurd op 7 juli 2022. Het is niet duidelijk wie het geschreven heeft.De inhoud is grotendeels gebaseerd op de twee rapporten die ik op 7 maart en 27 juni naar MinBuZa heb gestuurd.
Bronvermelding ontbreekt en er is geen bewijs dat het bezoek heeft plaatsgevonden.
Mae Sai district, in Chiang Rai province, is the northernmost zenith of Thailand and bordered with Tachileik province in Myanmar’s Shan state. Around 25 kilometers to the east of Mae Sai is the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. There are two official border check points crossing the Sai river, namely the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge I and II, along with four temporary checkpoints in the district. Bridge I would normally serve as a frontier for both logistics and immigration but has been closed since the beginning of Covid-19 outbreak in 2020. Meanwhile, Bridge II is the only checkpoint currently open but only for cross-border goods.
Security sources concurred that the situation in Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle is generally peaceful because the security concern with regard to militant fighting in Tachileik province is relatively small, unlike Mae Sod district in Tak province also bordering Myanmar. The Myanmar government has fairly good control over the region opposite Chiang Rai, contrary to Myawaddy in Kayin state, which is dominated by the Karen National Union (KNU) that has waged a war against the Myanmar military since 1949. That makes Mae Sod, which is adjacent to Myawaddy, subject to regular militant fighting and vulnerable to security threats. Although there were a few recent explosions in Tachileik earlier this year, they are believed to be motivated by conflicts of local interest groups.
Due to its bordering with Shan state, which is the main production base of methamphetamine, drug smuggling is prevalent in the area. However, sources at the local municipality and the Township Border Committee added that the situation around the Golden Triangle has more and more subsided after development projects including a new airport have been constructed on the Laos side. The area used to be prolific with narcotic smuggling by drug cartels, and thus frequent weapon showdowns with the Thai authority. But flourishing trade and more tourists now mean it has become more difficult for illicit smuggling operations while alternative transportation routes have been opted. Although armed raids by the Thai security against drug smugglers are still operated, they largely take place in the remote jungle areas. Security-wise, the provincial tourist police chief and the district officers stressed that the locals and tourists have only reported occasional petty crimes committed against them. Thus for the general Thais, Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle are not considered a security-risk area, unlike the three southernmost provinces and four districts of Songkhla where insurgency-related casualty is not covered by ordinary insurance packages.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic eased off, Thailand has been enthusiastic to reopen all border checkpoints to resume the flourishing border trade worth over 2 billion baht per month. However, there seems to be disagreement among the different Myanmar counterparts over the revenue allocation between them once business is back to normal. According to the sources, revenue from each of the two Bridges goes to different pockets; one to Naypyidaw and the other to the local state administration. Therefore, opening only one or both posts will affect the flow of revenue in a certain direction, leading to some interest groups trying to dictate the open/close border decision through violent incidents. Thailand is, nonetheless, determined to have all the cross-border points reopen on 1 June.