The border trade between Malaysia and Thailand is set to get a boost from the reopening of all nine border checkpoints.
Niwat Hansaward, the trade officer of the department of foreign trade from Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce, said due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Thailand had closed all of its 97 border checkpoints, including nine at the Malaysian border at the end of March 2020 and this has led to trade disruptions as freight carriers struggled to deliver goods.
"However, checkpoints have been gradually reopened. To date, there are 46 checkpoints, including all nine checkpoints at the Malaysian border, that are in operation. This is a huge step forward to boost border trade and a positive impact on the flow of goods,” he told Bernama recently.
The Thai government had closed all nine land and sea Thai-Malaysian checkpoints during the pandemic to curb the spread of COVID-19. Only one land or sea checkpoint in each designated territory bordering Malaysia was opened for the transporting of goods across the border.
In November last year, the last two checkpoints on the Malaysian-Thai border in Narathiwat, namely Ban Buketa-Bukit Bunga (Kelantan) and Tak Bai-Pangkalan Kubor (Kelantan), were reopened. It is projected the two customs points will boost the yearly Thai-Malaysian trade value to grow by at least 600 million baht.
The other checkpoints that have been opened include Wang Prachan (Satun)-Wang Kelian (Perlis), Jeti Thammalang (Satun)-Jeti Kuala Perlis (Perlis), Padang Besar (Songkhla)-Padang Besar (Perlis), Sadao (Songkhla)-Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah), Baan Prakob (Songkhla)-Kota Putra (Kedah), Betong (Yala)-Pengkalan Hulu (Perak), Ban Buketa (Narathiwat)-Bukit Bunga (Kelantan), Tak Bai (Narathiwat) -Pangkalan Kubor (Kelantan), Sungai Kolok (Narathiwat)-Rantau Panjang (Kelantan), Wang Prachan (Satun)-Wang Kelian (Perlis), Jeti Thammalang (Satun)-Jeti Kuala Perlis (Perlis), Padang Besar (Songkhla)-Padang Besar (Perlis), Sadao (Songkhla)-Bukit Kayu Hitam (Kedah), Baan Prakob (Songkhla)-Kota Putra (Kedah), Betong (Yala)-Pengkalan Hulu (Perak), and Sungai Kolok (Narathiwat)-Rantau Panjang (Kelantan).
Niwat said the cross-border trade slowed down last year following the stringent border restrictions as well as a labour shortage.
"However, the global economic recovery, baht depreciation, and quick reopening of border checkpoints have been expanding border trade,” he noted.
He revealed that Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit hopes to reopen all 97 checkpoints along Thailand’s borders to boost trade.
Data from the Ministry of Commerce showed that Thailand and Malaysia border trade increased 37.33 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) to 272.9 billion baht in the first 10 months of this year.
Exports to Malaysia increased 51.53 per cent y-o-y to 147.9 billion baht while imports rose 125 billion baht from January to October this year. This resulted in a trade surplus of 22.9 billion baht.
Niwat said Thailand’s trade with seven neighbouring countries - Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, China, Singapore, Vietnam in the first 10 months of last year tallied 1.42 trillion baht and posted a year-on-year surge of 31.72 per cent.
He said the exports made up 860 billion baht, an increase of 37.41 per cent while imports rose 23.9 per cent to 564 billion baht.
"Malaysia remains Thailand’s biggest border-trade partner,” he said.
In 2020, overall border trade declined 1.7 per cent from 2019 to 1.31 trillion baht following the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of border checkpoints to contain the spread of infections.