Myanmar Conflict Escalates, Thai Companies Pull Out

Shan State, Myanmar

BANGKOK  — The ongoing conflict in Myanmar between the military government and opposition forces shows no sign of abating. Fighting continues in several areas and has prompted Thai companies to pull out and divest 7 billion dollars.

In the past, Thai investors ranked third in investment promotion applications with a total value of 11.6 billion dollars or 12.47percent in 155 approved projects. Currently, Thai investment in Myanmar ranks fifth with a value of 4.45 billion dollars or 6.12 percent with 105 projects underway. This represents a loss of 50 projects and an investment value of 7.1 billion dollars.

According to Prachachat Business report, from January to May 2024, trade between Thailand and Myanmar totaled 3 billion dollars, a decrease of 10.46 percent compared to the same period last year.

Thai exports decreased by 11.81 percent to 1.7 billion dollars due to the lengthy import licensing procedures in Myanmar. Thai imports from Myanmar fell 8.52 percent to 1.2 billion dollars, resulting in a trade surplus for Thailand of 499.3 million dollars.


Members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, one of the ethnic armed forces in the Brotherhood Alliance, and the Mandalay People’s Defence Force pose for a photograph in front of the captured toll-gate in Nawnghkio township in Shan state, Myanmar, June 26, 2024. (Mandalay People’s Defence Force via AP)

In response, the Myanmar government is trying to reduce its trade deficit. It announced that goods found in ports or airports without import licenses will face legal action under export and import laws from 1 July 2024. Seven categories of goods now require an import license from the FESC: fertilizers, steel, solar products, polypropylene pellets, raw materials for plastic production, commercial vehicles and commercial machinery.

A report from Thailand’s Trade Promotion Office in Yangon, updated on July 5, 2024, projected Myanmar’s economy to grow by 1.5 percent in 2024. Between April and May 2024, international trade totaled 4.5 billion dollars, a 14.50 percent decrease compared to the same period last year.

Exports increased by 10.94 percent to 2.3 billion dollars, while imports fell by 30.82 percent to 2.2 billion dollars, resulting in a trade surplus of 63.53 million dollars for Myanmar.

FILE – Woman arrange flowers at a street market in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw, File)

Since May 2024, the Myanmar government has controlled the exchange rate at 2,100 MMK per USD, while the black market rate is 4,500 MMK per USD.

As of June 2024, total foreign investment in Myanmar for the fiscal year 2024-2025 stood at 95.5 billion dollars. Ongoing foreign investment projects were valued at 74.87 billion dollars. The top investing countries were Singapore, China, and Thailand.

In the condominium market, Myanmar buyers rose to second place, overtaking Russians, in the first quarter of 2024. However, this trend was abruptly halted by Myanmar’s policy to prevent capital outflows, causing financial instability. The Myanmar government cracked down on buyers and sellers involved in promotional events in the second quarter of 2024, leading to a sudden drop in market activity.

Myanmar buyers on Thai condominium

Dr. Wichai Wiratphan, inspector of the Government Housing Bank and acting director of the Real Estate Information Center (REIC), noted that the trend of Myanmar customers buying property may be taking a pause. In Q1/2024, Myanmar customers overtook Russians with 392 transferred units worth 2.2 billion baht. The duration of this pause is uncertain due to political factors in Myanmar. However, the demand for Thai condominiums remains due to their investment potential, despite the frequent political changes in Thailand.


“The foreign buyers of our condominiums were consistently dominated by Chinese customers, who make up half of the foreign market. In the first quarter of 2024, Myanmar buyers overtook Russians to become the second largest group of foreign condo buyers. This shift is largely due to a particular demand influenced by political factors within Myanmar. However, the number of purchases and transfers by second-place buyers is still well behind the top buyers,” said Dr. Wichai.

Thai Businesses Retreat Amid Myanmar Conflict

Many Thai companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand have closed their operations in Myanmar. TPBI Public Company Limited announced the dissolution and liquidation of its subsidiary TPBI & Myanmar Star Company Limited on 8 July 2024 due to economic uncertainty and business regulations in Myanmar.


In early July, Christiani & Nielsen (Thai) Public Company Limited announced the dissolution of its subsidiary, Christiani & Nielsen (Myanmar) Company Limited, on 2 July 2024. General Engineering Public Company Limited announced the termination of a 45 percent interest in joint ventures in Myanmar on 29 February 2024 due to continued losses and unfavorable political conditions.

At the end of 2023, Grand Prix International Public Company Limited dissolved its subsidiary, GPI Myanmar Company Limited, due to non-commercial activities.