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Myanmar Border Closure Hurts Thais

October 11, 1999

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Myanmar’s closure of its border with Thailand has shut down bustling trade and is costing Thai fishermen who operate in Myanmar waters more than $1 million a day, officials said Monday.

More than 400 Thai fishing vessels have already returned to port, leaving thousands jobless, and an uncertain number of other vessels are stranded in Myanmar waters, said Sutha Theareephat, the head of the provincial fishery department at the southern port of Ranong.

Fishing operators and related businesses in Ranong have been losing some $1.1 million a day, he said.

A Myanmar government spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that all crossing points had been closed temporarily for security reasons. The source would not say when they would be reopened.

Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai said Thailand was seeking talks with Myanmar but warned that Thailand would seek alternative sites to fish in Indonesian and Malaysian waters if Myanmar did not open up its waters again to Thai boats.

Yangon unilaterally closed its land and sea borders with Thailand last week after five armed dissidents stormed the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. Thailand gave the rebels safe passage to the Thai-Myanmar border in return for the safe release of all 38 hostages.

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