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Bangkok Post (17/5/99)


Pass closed following gun battle Army demolishes two wooden bridges

</bold>Supamart Kasem

Cross-border trade with Burma through a border pass in Phop Phra district
has been suspended since last week's gun battle between Thai troops and
guerrillas of the pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

A source said Maj-Gen Chalor Thongsala, the Naresuan Task Force
commander, has ordered the demolition of two wooden bridges across the
Waleh creek.

The bridges in Phop Phra district were used for border trade, especially
imports of furniture from Burma.

According to the source, millions of baht worth of furniture from Burma
was previously imported to Thailand each month through Ban Waleh Pass.

The pass has long been unofficially open for trade of necessary
commodities between the two countries.

Fourth Infantry Regiment Task Force Col Chayuti Boonparn said the bridges
had been built by some people without permission to allow delivery by
vehicle of furniture from Burma to Thailand.

"The villagers told us the DKBA had built the bridges.

"We had tried to stop the construction several times but there were still

"Some people benefited from export and import through these bridges.

"But this sometimes led to conflicts and gunfights between both sides,
threatening the safety of villagers and relations between Thailand and

"So, the officials demolished the bridges and placed barb-wire to block
the borderline and solve the problem once and for all," Col Chayuti

However, sick Burmese villagers would be allowed to enter Thailand via
the border pass to seek medical treatment from Thai health care units for
humanitarian reasons, Col Chayuti added.