The Thailand government is preparing to sign a timber contract worth several billion baht with Myanmar to offset a shortage of raw materials now faced by Thai wooden furniture manufacturers.
Thailand's Vice Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Noppadon Pattama said his ministry had held talks with timber traders, especially furniture makers, on a plan to survey about one million rai of rubber tree plantations in Myanmar in the near future.
The plantations are inside Myanmar near the Thai border from Mae Hong Son province in the north to Ranong in the south, said Noppadon, adding that most of the rubber trees are of large sizes and are no longer tapped.
He said the deal was in line with the Thai government's policy in its effort to make Thailand a global hub for the timber trade and furniture manufacturing.
Unfortunately, he said, local furniture manufacturers are currently facing a major shortage of timber and the government must solve the problem by finding timber supply sources to cushion the impact of the shortage.
Thailand stopped importing timber from Myanmar since the 1997 Salween logging scandal broke out when it was found that trees were fallen in Salween National Park near the Myanmar border and smuggled into that country before being imported back into Thailand.
The surprise deal is understood to be a follow-through of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's half-day trip and talks with Myanmar leaders on August 2.