In recent years, Myanmar-Thailand relations have experienced a surge of positive bilateralism due to their common membership in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). However, the thaw in relations still leaves the boundary dispute between two countries largely unresolved. A major clash occurred in February 2001 and tension on the border still prevails. It’s critical to look at the history of this boundary dispute, problems that fester on the border and what implications these could have on Thai-Burma’s effort to demarcate the boundary? Whether the improving economic relations have lessened the tensions or not? What will be the likely future in terms of finding a solution?
Thailand and Myanmar share the long border of 2400 kilometres approximately, out of which around 60 kilometres only is demarcated. The problem lies in the crux of the ‘Burney Treaty’ which was signed in 1826 by Thailand and Britain after the colonisation of Burma in 1824, establishing the current boundary between the two countries. After the independence of Myanmar in 1948, Thailand disagreed with the demarcation emphasising on imposition of the treaty by the British. Since then the border has been at the heart of issues between two nations that in turn is amplified by problems like ethnic insurgency and illegal immigration. The February 2001 clashes which led to death of a dozen civilians and almost hundred Burmese soldiers were the manifestation of these deeper problems. Both the governments presented different accounts of the event as Myanmar expounded that the fight between the Tatmadaw and the Shan State Army (SSA) spilled into the Thai territory near Ban Pang Noon causing subsequent clashes, whereas Thai accounts elaborated that the clashes were provoked when Tatmadaw captured a Royal Thai Army (RTA) base at Ban Pang Noon. Skirmishes again occurred in May 2002 and SPDC was forced to close the border crossings from May to October of that year.