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Burma-Thailand Border Re-Opens

The border between Thailand and Burma is open, after being closed for five months due to rocky relations between the two countries. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said opening the three major border crossings signals a return to normal relations between the two countries.

As officials removed barricades from the Thailand-Burma Friendship Bridge, at the Thai town of Mae Sot, crowds of people began crossing the border.

The closure has been bad for Burma's economy, which is weak from years of mismanagement and Western sanctions against the military government. Thailand's border towns, while more prosperous, have also been hurt. Thai officials say the country has lost millions of dollars in trade since May, when the border closed.

Burma closed the border after deadly clashes erupted between its soldiers and Shan rebels. Rangoon accused the Thai government of helping the Shan. Thailand said Burma allows members of its Wa ethnic group to smuggle tons of narcotics across the border. But Rangoon said the Shan rebels are responsible for the drug trade.

The border has long been a source of tension, not only because of the lucrative drug trade, but also because many Burmese refugees live along the border. Many of them fled Burma's military rulers, or sought safety from fighting among different ethnic groups. Thailand resents having to care for the refugees.