Thai authority cuts electricity to 2 regions in southeastern Myanmar

Thailand’s Provincial Electricity Authority cut power to two sections of southeastern Myanmar early Tuesday, leading to threats of retaliation from an ethnic Karen force aligned with the Burmese junta.
Somchai Trithipchartsakul, the chief of Mae Sot district in Thailand, said the surrounding Tak province was ready to deal with potential impacts with its border neighbor in Myanmar. 
“There was a power cut at 12:05 a.m. The situation at Tha Kham Bridge is still normal – people are still able to send goods across the local two bridges,” Somchai told RFA affiliated news service BenarNews. “Goods can be transported normally, everything is running as usual.” 
Last week, Somchai told BenarNews that the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) had informed him that it was planning to cut electricity to Lay Kay Kaw and Shwe Kokko on June 6. Authorities allege that Shwe Kokko in particular is home to casinos illegally run by Chinese businessmen.
Somchai said the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok had submitted a letter noting that the junta government would not renew the purchase agreement between the authority and Shwe Myint Thaung Yinn Industry & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The agreement expired on Feb. 28, but the SMTY had requested it be renewed temporarily
A source who requested anonymity because of security concerns said Col. Saw Chit Thu, the leader of the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF), informally told Thai authorities that if the electricity supply to Myanmar were terminated, his group would close the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing checkpoint in retaliation. The BGF is aligned with the Burmese military.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Shwe Kokko resident who requested anonymity confirmed that power was out, but he did not know who was responsible. The man told RFA Burmese that he was using a generator to power computers for his small company.
The BGF leader did not immediately respond to an RFA request for comment.
When questioned by reporters in Bangkok, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who also serves as defense minister, had little to say about the action.
“It is an internal matter of Myanmar and does not have any impact on the Thai people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Salai Bawi, a political scientist at Chiang Mai University, noted that the Thais should be prepared to deal with potential consequences.
“The threat by the Karen BGF to close the Friendship Bridge may lead to more tension and violence. Thailand needs to handle this situation with caution to avoid any economic repercussions or possible diplomatic conflicts,” Salai told BenarNews.
Pornsuk Kerdsawang of the Friends Without Borders Foundation, a Thai NGO, said she expected that the BGF members were prepared for the outage.
“They may have a generator for the short term,” she told BenarNews. “Tension will only occur if they cannot resolve this issue together. They may end up closing the border as they have threatened.”
When news surfaced about the plan to cut electricity, Somchai said Shwe Kokko had five to 10 generators to produce power.
Since 2016, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos have had electricity contracts for 21 power grids in Myanmar, totaling 43,750 kilowatts, according to the PEA database. For Shwe Kokko, the partners signed an 8,000 KW power deal.
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news organization.


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