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Top Chinese diplomat to visit Vietnam

Posted by pakin On June - 17 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

HANOI – A top Chinese diplomat will visit Vietnam this week after China’s deployment of a giant oil rig off Vietnam’s coast in May increased tensions.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh will discuss the oil rig when they meet at an annual bilateral event Yang is attending, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters Monday.

Mr Yang’s visit will be the highest-level meeting between the two governments since the rig was deployed on May 2.

“As we have affirmed many times that Vietnam has always been patient to look for dialogues with China to peacefully resolve the tension in the East Sea,” Mr Binh said referring to the South China Sea. “This meeting, therefore, will surely be a channel and an event the two sides could discuss the issue to find out solutions for the current tension.”

Mr Minh and Mr Yang spoke by phone in early May.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said in a statement at the time that Mr Minh denounced China’s placement of the oil rig, saying it seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and demanding China immediately withdraw the oil rig and its escorting vessels.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency, however, quoted Mr Yang as telling Mr Minh that Vietnam should stop harassing China’s normal drilling operations.

Col Ngo Ngoc Thu, deputy commander of Vietnam’s coast guard, dismissed China’s allegations that Vietnamese vessels rammed Chinese ships 1,547 times. He said 36 Vietnamese vessels were rammed and damaged and that 15 Vietnamese fisheries patrol staff and two fishermen were injured.

He disputed Chinese accusations that Vietnamese divers left obstacles in the water to disrupt drilling operations. He said Vietnam did not use divers near the rig but that fishermen were forced to leave behind nets and other equipment because Chinese ships used water cannons to force the fishing boats to retreat.

As Myanmar is speeding up the implementation of special economic zones (SEZ) before the launch of the Asean Economic Community, the success of Thilawa SEZ will serve as a “gateway” to a lot of mega-projects in the country, an economist said.

Maung Aung, senior adviser to the Ministry of Commerce, told Myanmar Eleven that Thilawa SEZ plays a vital role in the country’s economy as it will set a good example for the implementation of mega-projects.

“Currently, many investors are keeping an eye on the development of Thilawa SEZ. Not only Japanese investors but also international businesses are looking closely at the zone’s development. If we can do well in Thilawa SEZ within the targeted timeframe, I am sure thousands of businesses will flock to our country,” said Maung Aung.

The adviser pointed out that all-inclusive participation is needed to make the project a success.

“I heard [that] Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Limited has sold out thousands of its shares to the public. As there are many new shareholders in the firm, the Board of Directors should get advice from the public and listen to other shareholders.”

Sett Aung, chairperson of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone Management Committee, said in an earlier press conference that the management team of Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings might be reformed owing to the increase in the number of shareholders.

Currently, Win Aung, chairman for Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI), and Thein Wai, chairman of First Myanmar Investment Co (FMI), are serving as the chairman and vice chairman of the Thilawa SEZ Holdings, respectively.

Criticism arises over the selection of shareholders as chairman and vice chairman, as this may lead to a conflict of interest.

The SEZ has a total area of 5787.187 acres (2342 hectares). Class A area, which is the first phase of construction work, has a land area of 978.691 acres (396.061 hectres). As it is a special economic zone, there will be residential and commercial areas besides industrial area. There will be supermarkets, residential housings, and international schools, hospitals, etc. Such buildings will be built in the residential and commercial areas.

“There will be free zone and promotion zone as you can learn it in the new Special Economic Zone law. Export-oriented industries will be in the free zone. Domestic-oriented industries, supermarkets, residential housings, recreation centres will be situated in the promotion zone. So we will form the free zone as the international bounded area,” said Sett Aung.

“In Thilawa SEZ, we will separate into two parts: free-zone industries and other industries. There may be a domestic market-oriented industry near the free zone. But they will enjoy the same opportunities as other domestic-oriented industries do. We take Model 2 of the new Special Economic Zone law.”

Sett Aung emphasised the role of the developer as it will invest, build, and maintain the whole zone. Myanmar-Japan Thilawa Development, which is a joint-venture company, will serve as a developer while Thilawa SEZ Management Committee will serve as a regulator.

“The regulator itself has become the minority shareholder in Thilawa SEZ. In the newly formed joint-venture company, SEZ Management Committee will possess 10 per cent of shares while Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings possesses 41 per cent of shares. [The]Japanese consortium will hold 39 per cent while Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA] will hold 10 per cent,” said Sett Aung, who is also the deputy governor at the Central Bank of Myanmar.

He noted that there was one condition then that the developer must be a public company. The other criteria are the company must have more than 50 shareholders and it must submit the letter of intent within two weeks from advertisement date. At the time, there were more than 20 public companies and of total, only 12 have more than 50 shareholders. Moreover, only nine of the 12 managed to submit the letter of intent on time. These companies ended up being the shareholders of Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings.

But Sett Aung highlighted that the voting rights of the initiating developers will be the same as those of other shareholders and there will not be any discrimination among the shareholders.

Win Aung, the chairperson of the Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings, said that the construction of factories will commence in the zone by this month. Four roads connecting the Thilawa special economic zone are already planned for construction.

P. Penh court frees workers, activists

Posted by pakin On May - 30 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

PHNOM PENH – A Cambodian court found 25 people guilty on Friday of acts of violence during strikes by garment workers but all were given suspended sentences and freed, a ruling likely to be welcomed by global manufacturers operating in the country.

The deadly crackdown on the strikes and working conditions in the garment sector have attracted international criticism.

Representatives of global brands including Hennes & Mauritz AB, Gap Inc, Puma SE and Levi Strauss & Co visited Cambodia this week to tell the government their buying would depend on stability, transparency and the rule of law, according to IndustriALL Global Union, a labour group based in Switzerland that attended the talks.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court judges convicted the workers, trade unionists and protesters of intentional violence including damage to public property during strikes in November last year and January 2014.

They were given suspended jail terms of between one and 4 and a half years.

Cambodia’s garment industry generated US$5.3 billion (172 billion baht) in revenue last year. The industry employs about 600,000 people and strikes for higher pay and better working conditions have been on the rise.

Cambodian military police opened fire with assault rifles on Jan 3 to quell a strike by garment factory workers demanding a doubling of their monthly wage to $160. At least three people were killed.

The government increased the wage to $100 from $80 but unions and workers have refused to accept it.

They have joined forces with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has been protesting on and off for months after claiming it won a general election last July. The party of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen won according to the election authority and he remains in power.

Levi’s has cut its sourcing from Cambodia in the past year due to concerns about political instability and human rights violations in the country, the group said in an email to Reuters.

“We reduced our sourcing in Cambodia to reduce supply chain risk and ensure delivery. We hope to see swift progress on the outstanding labour and human rights concerns so our sourcing can return to previous levels,” Levi’s said.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, said in a statement after the talks with the government: “For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia.”

Ahead of the verdicts, Mr Raina had said the companies and unions were concerned about the fate of those appearing in court and that Cambodia “was at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth”.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the minimum wage could not be doubled and that it had to go up gradually for the industry to survive. Exports had dropped 17% in the first three months of the year compared with last year, he said.

“There is no country that can double wages,” Ken Loo said, adding that most international buyers had not agreed to pay more to local factories to enable them to increase wages. “If we increase by too much, factories close.”

Laos to launch first satellite in 2015

Posted by pakin On May - 27 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

VIENTIANE — Chinese contractors will launch Laos’ first satellite next year, state media reported on Tuesday.

China Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications Satellite Company and another unnamed Chinese contractor have started production on the satellite, the Vientiane Times said.

It will be launched into an orbital slot of 128.5 degrees, the newspaper reported. Such slots are normally allocated by the International Telecommunications Union.

“Forty-two young Lao officials have just completed three months of initial training on satellite communications in preparation for the satellite’s operation,” said the government mouthpiece.

Laos signed a $250-million agreement in 2011 with the two Chinese contractors to build and launch the satellite, using a Chinese loan.

The satellite will relay data for television and telephone services.