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Countries want Japan in Dawei port project

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 18 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Thailand and Myanmar yesterday proposed involving a third party – possibly Japan – in joint development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, construction of which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said was due to start in the first quarter of next year.Thailand and Myanmar yesterday proposed involving a third party – possibly Japan – in joint development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, construction of which Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said was due to start in the first quarter of next year.

Yingluck led a Thai delegation to meet President Thein Sein and jointly inspected the site in Taninthayi region. The Thai premier and the delegation arrived in Dawei early yesterday, while the Myanmar president travelled via Mawlamyine.

It was the fourth meeting between the two leaders on the project this year. The last meeting was held in Phnom Penh on the sidelines of the Asean summit last month, when they agreed to complete the multi-billion project by 2015, coinciding with the birth of the Asean community.

A joint coordination committee is working on all details of the project including technical issues and financial arrangements. The JCC will conclude the study by February and submit it to high-level joint committee co-chaired by Thai Deputy Prime Minister Kittirat Na Ranong and Myanmar’s Vice President Nyan Htun to draft a framework agreement by March next year.

Thailand and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop an industrial estate and deep seaport in Myanmar’s southern Dawei district in 2008. The entire project is expected to cost US$80 billion (Bt2.47 trillion). Thailand’s Italian-Thai Development has obtained a concession to build a special economic zone covering 250 square kilometres in the area.

The Yingluck government signed another MoU on comprehensive development in the Dawei Special Economic Zone and its related project areas in July to boost the idea. The Thai government wants Dawei to serve as a major gateway to the Indian Ocean, Europe and Africa via Myanmar – and it convinced leaders in Nay Pyi Taw the project would be a main channel for Myanmar to access mainland Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Third party important

Yingluck said the project would benefit all in the region so it was important to involve a third party – with both public and private sectors – such as Japan.

Conservationists say the project will cause social and environmental problems in both Myanmar and Thailand. Some 20 villages with a total population of 32,000 in surrounding areas would be affected, as well as people living along the road to the coast, they said.

A joint subcommittee, which met last week in Nay Pyi Taw, proposed a rehabilitation plan to compensate affected people who would be moved from the area. The Thai proponents have proposed technical assistance for training programmes to improve skills and livelihoods of affected local residents.

The Team Engineering Group, Environmental Research Group, and Panya Consultants from Thailand have been hired for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project, which is expected to come out early next year.

Industrial housing for the project should be ready by the start of 2014, while the finish date for the first phase is 2015.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone project includes an oil and gas refinery, petrochemical plant, steel plant, light and medium industries and a coal-fired power plant.

A four-lane road, which is under construction, will link Dawei and Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok. The road, through an area “controlled” by Karen ethnic rebels, will take several years to build, provided there are no problems. Developers are hoping it will be open for use by 2016.

During the meeting between Yingluck and Thein Sein yesterday, Myanmar agreed to Thailand’s proposal to upgrade Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Sing Khon checkpoint to a permanent border pass.

Thailand, in return, agreed to provide more help to upgrade the road from Myawaddy to Mawlamyine. Thailand will also extend national verification for migrant workers, including those from Myanmar for more than three months, after the December 14 deadline.

PM in Myanmar for Dawei meet

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 17 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Yingluck, investors to lobby Thein Sein

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is to meet Myanmar President Thein Sein Monday in Myanmar for a key discussion over the Dawei special economic zone.

The meeting is expected to boost investor’s confidence in the development project, said Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt.

Ms Yingluck will be joined by 40 Thai businessmen on the trip to confirm Thailand’s readiness to cooperate.

She will meet Thein Sein and inspect the progress of the joint development project and related investments for the the Dawei special economic zone.

It will be her first visit to Dawei after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in developing the area in May 2008.

Mr Chadchat said a joint Thai-Myanmar coordinating committee on infrastructure finalised plans to divide the project’s infrastructure into three zones, at a meeting on Friday.

Phase zero involves setting up basic industries, which is expected to be completed in 2014.

Phase one involves building ports, roads, water systems and transport systems, expected to be ready in 2015.

Phase two involves investment in the remaining industries and is expected to be complete in 2020.

The coordinating committee is reviewing a project to build an electric train linking Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Thailand’s Rayong province and the Dawei industrial project, Mr Chadchat said.

The section of the rail link from Dawei to the Thai border alone requires an investment worth about 30 billion baht.

The committee wants the rail link to be shifted from phase two to phase one to cut costs, the minister said, adding that private companies will be encouraged to invest. The rail link is expected to cost about 150 billion baht, he said.

The Foreign Ministry has offered to help Myanmar implement plans to relocate people displaced by the Dawei deep-sea port, said Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

The ministry’s plan will involve teaching displaced people about integrated farming practices, and will provide welfare and vocational training for labourers, he said.

The plan also includes a renovation project at the Dawei Hospital.

The Myanmar government is pleased with the assistance and will start its implementation once the villagers’ relocation is completed, Mr Surapong said.

The Myanmar government wants the Dawei project to start taking shape by April next year, he added.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, the secretary-general of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery, urged the public to monitor the government’s investment in the Dawei project and the talks in Myanmar today.

“I am still uncertain the project will be fully realised, he said. “How will the government take responsibility if it is not completed? A lot of taxpayers’ money will be spent on this project.

“How can the Thai government be sure that its investment in Myanmar will yield a handsome return and the Myanmar government will continue supporting the Thai investments until the project is completed?” he said.

The Myanmar government currently has two other deep-sea ports under construction nearby, he said.

Mr Witoon said he is also worried about the environmental impact from the construction of the project. He said local people have no say in the matter.

“The Dawei project is 10 times bigger than the Thai Eastern Seaboard project,” he said. “It is likely the local villagers there will be affected by environment problems from this development.”

There should be no rush to jump into the Dawei project, said Myint Wai, the deputy director of the Campaign for Democracy Committee in Myanmar.

He called for a comprehensive environmental impact study for the project and for measures to be taken to solve potential environmental problems.

Internet connection fees cut by operators

Posted by arnon_k On December - 12 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Myanmar’s Red Link Communications, the service provider for WiMax, has reduced the initial fees for WiMax Internet connection and plans to cut the monthly fees in early 2013.

Initial fees for WiMax Internet connection has been reduced from 630,000 kyats (about Bt22,800) to 450,000 kyats, while monthly fees and the plan rates currently remain the same, according to the sources.

Red Link is selling WiMax with the initial fees of 360,000 kyats in a single promotion event on February 2, 2013, and the company plans to waive initial fees in 2015, according to representatives from Red Link Company.

The company has six types of WiMax service plans, which are Silver, Gold, Gold Plus, Platinum, Platinum Plus and Diamond. Monthly fees are charged depending on speed and usage quota. .

All Fees should be paid in the US dollars equivalent to market exchange rate in kyats.

Internet users can also use prepaid cards and the company is using data usage plan for the prepaid system. The prices vary with different usage plans, for instance, 16,000 kyats for 1GB and 27,000 kyats for 2 GB.

Other network operators have also reduced fees. Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications has reduced the initial fees for ADSL internet lines from 500,000 kyats to 50,000 kyats, and Yatanarpon Teleport has also reduced the fees from 500,000 kyats to 100,000 kyats.

As AEC looms, MPs get to know their neighbourhood

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 11 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

As the starting date for the Asean Economic Community nears, Thai MPs are preparing for 2015 in their own individual ways. One has begun to watch Indonesian drama via satellite TV and is reading the history of neighbouring countries, while another shares a meal with his Filipino friends weekly to learn more about their community.

Democrat MP Rachada Dhna-direk, a member of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs, said she was not studying any particular language but was more interested in foreign cultures.

“Watching Indonesian drama helps me understand the tastes and values of Indonesians more. I can see similarities and differences from [those of] Thais,” said the MP, who completed her master’s degree in the United Kingdom and earned a doctorate from the Asian Institute of Technology.

She has read books about the histories of the people of Myanmar and Laos as well as Xishuangban-na, an autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province, China.

Rachada said she told the people she visited about possible changes in Thailand once the Asean Economic Community gets under way. She told businesspeople, especially the operators of small and medium-sized tourism enterprises and hotels, to look for opportunities and alliances to expand their businesses. At least they would not be unduly pressured by major and foreign operators, she said.

Phitsanulok MP Warong Dechgitvigrom said there were more than 100 Filipinos in his province and he was happy to meet with them and practise his English skills while exchanging information and opinions.

“I’m not worried, but I think we should strengthen skills in the English language. I see the Asean Community quite positively. It will be open for the people [of all member countries] to travel and meet each other while broadening their knowledge and vision,” he said.

Warong said the government was too busy dealing with domestic politics and had not done much on issues related to the AEC. However, the media should work harder to educate and inform people about the coming changes and movements.

“For example, the AEC is too [remote an idea] for farmers. They don’t even understand the government’s policy on rice and its consequences. I’m afraid other countries might take advantage of us,” said Warong.

He is the MP who revealed graft related to the distribution of rice in the government’s price-pledging scheme during the recent censure debate in the House.

Pheu Thai MP Chavalit Vichayasuthi from Nakhon Phanom said he had pushed for the construction of a central hospital in the province as he realised there would be a lot more tourists visiting the border areas.

The hospital, whose construction was approved by the Cabinet in February, will be a central facility for the Indochina subregion and medical service by specialised doctors, he said.

Chavalit said that after the opening of the Third Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge last year, the value of border trade had increased by 70 per cent through an increasing number of tourists. However, the hospital needed patients to be transferred to other provinces such as Khon Kaen and Ubon Ratchathani to have access to specialised doctors.

Chavalit said he’d had meetings with doctors who are Nakhon Phanom natives and asked them who they wanted to come and work in the province. Good schools for the doctors’ children were among the requests and he also pushed for the projects.

Chavalit said he realised that languages are important and he and the local people had no problems in communicating with people from Vietnam.

“I cannot speak it, but I can listen and understand. I have local people to help, anyway,” Chavalit said, adding that he could sing some Vietnamese songs.

Pheu Thai MP Khattiya Sawatdiphol, a member of the House committee on military affairs, and Democrat MP Samart Maluleem, chairman of the House committee on Thai border affairs, said they had followed the news about Asean countries closely.

In the meantime, many House committees had seminars and visited local people as well as foreign countries to learn more about related issues. However, the preparation was more on an individual basis.

“There has not been so much [collective] preparation of MPs so far but each MP [is acquiring information]. They all have the potential,” Samart said after saying more trips would come during the parliamentary recess.

Khattiya, who was educated in the United States, said: “Everybody pays attention to the issues. We still have time to prepare. The MPs have no problem with language. Even representatives from the provinces can speak English.”

Pheu Thai MP Poowanida Kunplin, chairwoman of an advisory committee for House Speaker Somsak Kiartsuranon on foreign affairs, said the language courses for MPs were being prepared and would be provided soon.

Initially, English and Chinese courses will be provided. However, all major languages of the Asean region will be available as members of the Parliament and officials need them while making agreements or cooperating with counterparts from other countries, she said. The projects will start soon, using the budget of 2013.

The House Speaker also had King Prajadhipok’s Institute provide training for MPs, senators and parliamentary officials to elevate the capability and competency of the whole organisation, she said.

Poowanida said the legislators were working on many laws that needed review, or legislation to meet with the agreements according to the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity.

“We intend wholeheartedly to prepare the best. We are going forward. But this is only a preparation period,” she said, adding the committee was gathering related issues, recommendations and planning preparation for the AEC.