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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.

Migrant deadline delay sought

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 14 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Businesses fear severe labour shortages

Business leaders are calling on the government to extend the identification verification deadline for migrant workers to avoid an acute labour shortage in some industries.

Dec 14 is the deadline for issuing temporary passports to migrant workers from neighbouring Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar as part of the nationality verification process.

From tomorrow, all illegal workers face being deported to their home countries, ending a two-decade regularisation process that has generally failed to ensure national, human and economic security.

Phumin Harinsut, vice-chairman of Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the business sector has urged Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to extend the deadline.

The deadline was earlier postponed from June as the private sector could not verify the identification of migrant workers on time. These workers were employed in Thailand without permission.

About 530,000 foreign workers out of 880,000 needing verification had finished the process as of the end of November.

Labour-intensive sectors such as fisheries, seafood and construction face a labour shortage if migrant workers are deported.

Poj Aramwattananont, director of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said most sectors except finance would be adversely affected if the verification deadline was not extended.

About 2-3 million migrant workers are employed in Thailand.

The 300,000 workers in the food-processing and frozen-food sectors are nearly all migrants. As the sectors are major exporters, the target of gross domestic product growth of 5% next year could be missed.

Atip Bijanond, president of the Thai Condominium Association, said the property and construction sectors have long had a labour shortage that will be worsened if illegal workers are deported.

That would affect state and private megaprojects because almost all construction workers are migrants.

Migrant advocacy groups are seeking the attention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) chief during his current visit to Thailand.

The Samut Sakhon-based Migrant Worker Rights Network has prepared an open letter to the ILO today seeking its support for migrant rights in jeopardy due to the nationality verification deadline.

Labour activists estimate that 1.5 million undocumented migrant workers who did not complete the expensive and untransparent nationality verification process will become illegal workers.

Philippines moves closer to birth control law

Posted by arnon_k On December - 13 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The Philippines moved closer to a controversial birth control law Thursday as lawmakers passed a version of the bill after a long debate over an issue that has deeply polarised the largely Catholic nation.

The bill paving the way for sex education in schools and the provision of free contraceptives in a country with one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations was passed by the lower house of parliament after a five-hour vote.

“Let us have children by choice, not by chance,” Edcel Lagman, a lawmaker who initiated the legislation, said after voting on the bill that passed with a narrow majority just before dawn.

His comment reflects the view of President Benigno Aquino who is pushing for the law that he hopes would help bring down poverty in a nation of nearly 100 million people as well as the high maternal mortality rate.

The move is supported by women’s groups and the United Nations but is vehemently opposed by the politically influential Catholic Church, which is against the use of contraceptives, including condoms and birth control pills.

The proposed legislation would come into force after both houses of parliament agree on a common version that would be signed into law by the president.

Aquino had urged legislators at a recent meeting to help get the law passed after more than a year of bitter debates on the issue.

But he stressed that while he was for “responsible parenthood”, he would leave it to the legislators to vote on the measure based on their conscience.

Singapore government under pressure over sex scandal

Posted by arnon_k On December - 13 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Singapore opposition parties urged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Thursday to call a by-election after the parliamentary Speaker abruptly resigned due to an extramarital affair.

The calls came less than 24 hours after Michael Palmer, 44, publicly confessed and announced his resignation from his parliamentary seat and membership of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Confessing to “a serious error of judgment,” the married father of one — who was only sworn in as Speaker in October 2011 — said he quit “to avoid further embarrassment to the PAP and to Parliament”.

Local dailies on Thursday splashed pictures of Laura Ong, a 33-year-old married community worker fingered as Palmer’s lover, in the latest sex scandal to hit the city-state.

The resurgent political opposition immediately urged Premier Lee to call a by-election to fill Palmer’s seat in the Punggol East ward.

“We strongly urge the Prime Minister to call for a by-election as soon as possible, to ensure that the constituents of Punggol East are democratically represented hereafter,” Singapore People’s Party chairman Lina Chiam said in a statement.

The Workers’ Party echoed the call and announced its intention to run for the vacated seat.

Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam said in a statement it was “strongly considering contesting this seat if and when a by-election is called”.

Opposition politician Benjamin Pwee told the Straits Times daily he was also intending to contest the seat, possibly as an independent.

Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan said Thursday that Lee “cannot avoid calling for a by-election… without inflicting severe damage to his and his party’s political and moral standing”.

“Voters of Punggol East have been badly let down and they deserve the opportunity to elect another representative,” he added.

By law, the decision to call a by-election is made wholly at the prime minister’s discretion.

Lee however gave no indication of his intentions in a Facebook post.

“The Constitution does not require me to call a by-election within any fixed timeframe,” Lee said on his Facebook page late Wednesday.

“I will carefully consider whether to call a by-election in Punggol East and, if so, when. I assure Singaporeans that I will make my decision based on what is best for the constituents of Punggol East and the country.”

Netizens weighed in on calls for a vote.

“Who win(s) the by election is secondary, what is important is the democratic process. MP (Members of Parliament) are elected by the people for the people not appointed by the winning party,” Ben Teo posted on Lee’s Facebook page.

Opposition parties have been emboldened since last year’s general election in which the Workers’ Party won a total six seats in the 87-member parliament, riding on a wave of sentiment against PAP policies on a range of issues, including its open-door policy on foreign workers.

The PAP suffered its lowest share of the popular vote since coming to power more than 50 years ago.