Thailand has expressed concern over the proposed BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement that would give Indian truckers access to the country through a trilateral highway via Myanmar, saying only domestically-owned transport firms should be allowed on the route to protect interests of local players.
Thailand’s concerns were conveyed during the BIMSTEC MVA meeting that took place from April 8-10, Thai envoy Chutintorn Sam Gongsakdi said.
Thailand has said that only domestically-owned transport companies of the participating countries be allowed mobility as this would protect the local players before agreeing to the Motor Vehicle Agreement, Gongsakdi said.
No delegation from the Thai side attended the meeting, but the Thai embassy here expressed its concern over the issue, he said.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
“We have made a proposal to limit the participation for trucking companies that belong to the member countries to set a limitation of 51 per cent (stake of) Thai or Indian companies,” he told PTI.
Gongsakdi cited the “liberal” provisions in India that permit 100 per cent foreign investment in the transport service sector and said Thailand is concerned that Indian transportation firms may “wipe out” the Thai industry because it has “no limit” on foreign ownership.
“We would like our concerns to be addressed. Although there was no Thai delegation from the capital (Bangkok), they provided us with positions to be conveyed by the Thai embassy at the meeting, which is to limit the participation of transportation companies to those that are domestically owned….meaning only companies that have an Indian majority stake,” he said.
India, Thailand and Myanmar are working on a nearly 1,400 km-long highway that would link India with southeast Asia by land and give a boost to trade, business, health, education and tourism ties among the three countries. The BIMSTEC MVA is a crucial part of the plan.
The trilateral highway is scheduled to be completed by next year.
“Physical connectivity, which is the physical building of the road, and the other is the soft connectivity or the software, which means the system, the rules, the regulations, these can happen in parallel,” the Thai envoy said.
Earlier this year, Bangladesh, India and Nepal agreed on the text of the operating procedures for passenger vehicle movement in the sub-region under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) MVA. However, Bhutan is not a party to the MVA yet.