Which Countries Border Thailand?

The Golden Triangle showing the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.
The Golden Triangle showing the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.

Thailand is found in Southeast Asia. The country has a long land border that stretches 3,021 miles in length which it shares with four countries: Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos. The border was established in the early 20th century as a result of numerous international treaties signed between the country and its neighbors. Thailand has also been embroiled in territorial disputes with Malaysia and Cambodia.

Myanmar Border - 1,118 Miles

Myanmar is situated west of Thailand and is one of the four nations with which Thailand shares a land border. The border delimiting the two countries is 1,118 miles in length, making it the longest international border that Thailand shares with another country. The international border starts at the tri-point connecting Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand from where it extends south until it reaches the Strait of Malacca. Geographical features define some sections of the border. For instance, River Moei represents the international border between the two nations and delimits the Province of Tak in Thailand from the State of Kayin in Myanmar. The international border features numerous border crossings. A notable example is the Myanmar-Thailand Friendship Bridge, a border crossing located on River Moei. Built in 1997, the border crossing is complete with border checkpoints on opposite sides of the bridge. Myanmar had temporarily closed its side of the border crossing between 2010 and 2011, but that did not stop illegal smuggling to infiltrate across the border despite being heavily patrolled by Myanmar forces.

Myanmar Border Disputes

The international border has witnessed violent conflicts on numerous occasions. One instance the 2010-12 Myanmar border conflicts that saw the Myanmar armed forces and the DKBA-5, an insurgent group, clash. The border clashes started on November 7th, 2010 soon after the 2010 general elections and lasted for about one year and two months. More than 40 soldiers lost their lives in the aftermath of the conflict while over 60 soldiers were wounded. About three civilians were killed, and an additional 24 were wounded during the border clashes. Thailand was not drawn into the conflict, with Bangkok advising the warring parties to show restraint after it emerged that some grenades infiltrated into the Thai part of the border. The conflict left an estimated 10,000 people as refugees.

Cambodia Border - 500 Miles

Cambodia is situated east of Thailand, with the two countries sharing a long land border. The international border delimiting the two countries is about 500 miles in length. The border starts at tripoint connecting the two nations to Laos and moves south to the Gulf of Thailand. While the two countries agree on the delineation of a large section the border, there is a disagreement on the Preah Vihear Temple in northern Cambodia. The history of the territorial dispute goes back to the early 20th century when the French were delineating the international border in 1907 and culminated in armed conflict that was witnessed between 2008 and 2011. The two countries battled over the temple in a war that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 36 soldiers from both sides as well as at least five civilians. The dispute was resolved in November 11th, 2013 by the International Court of Justice which granted the sovereignty of the disputed area to Cambodia.

Malaysia Border - 314 Miles

Another country that shares a land border with Thailand is Malaysia, a nation that is situated south of Thailand. The land border delineating the two countries is 314 miles, making it Thailand’s shortest international border. The border starts at the Strait of Malacca, from where it extends east. The two countries also share a maritime border on two fronts in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. The maritime border was established in the early 20th century in line with the provisions of the 1909 Anglo-Siamese treaty, but the two countries formally agreed on the delineation of the border after signing an agreement in October 1979. Some sections of the international border have border walls, which have been set up as a remedy to curb the rampant smuggling that is witnessed on the border. Some sections on which walls have been erected include the Perlis-Songkhla section, the Perlis-Satun section, and the Kedah-Songkhla section. The walls have been erected on a 32-foot wide no-man’s-land whose sovereignty belongs to neither Thailand nor Malaysia. The concrete wall, which is expected to cover a longer section of the international border, is over eight feet tall. There are numerous border crossings found on the border, many of which are road crossings. Two border crossings on the Thailand-Malaysia border are railway crossings, one being at the Pandang Bensar border town and the other connecting the Sungai Kolok (Thailand) and Rantau Panjang (Malaysia) border towns.

Malaysia Border Dispute

However, the two bordering countries have territorial disputes over the delineation of the border. One area of dispute touches the maritime border between the two nations and involves continental shelf lying in the Gulf of Thailand. The two nations have different definitions of the extent of the maritime border and have signed several treaties aimed at resolving the territorial dispute. Malaysia and Thailand signed an agreement in May 1990 that allowed either country to exploit any natural resources found in the area of dispute. The agreement also provided for the establishment of the Malaysia-Thailand Joint Development Area covering 2,800 square miles in which Thailand and Malaysia divide all non-living resources equally but also discredits all prior territorial claims by either country in the disputed area. Another disputed area is a 5.2-mile stretch of land at Jeli Hill found close to the Golok River.

Laos Border - 1,090 Miles

The country that borders Thailand to the north is Laos. The two countries share a land border that is about 1,090 miles in length. A long section of the international border follows the flow of the Mekong River. There are eight major border crossings found on the Thailand-Laos international border. Many of these border crossings are bridges found on the Mekong River which are commonly known as “Friendship Bridges.” The busiest of the border crossings is the Nong Khai-Vientiane border crossing, which was the first Friendship Bridge to be constructed. Another border crossing that is a Friendship Bridge is the Mukdahan-Savannakhet border crossing.


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