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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.

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.

Burma apologises for police attack on protesting monks

Posted by Nuttapon_S On December - 8 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The government in Burma has apologised to Buddhist monks for the injuries sustained during a police operation outside a copper mine nine days ago.

More than 50 people, including 20 monks, were injured when police tried to clear protesters who said local farmers had been forced off the land.

Injuries included severe burns blamed on incendiary devices thrown by police.

The raid last month was the toughest action since a more reformist government came to power last year.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says the apology reflects the government’s nervousness over the role of monks, who command high public respect.

They often take up political and social causes, bringing them into conflict with the authorities.

Joint venture

Religious Affairs Minister Myint Maung told a delegation of senior monks that the police regretted the injuries, which he blamed on the “incompetency” of the authorities.

He said the government would do its utmost to prevent such incidents happening again.

It has established a commission of inquiry, headed by opposition leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi.

She visited the area last Friday and demanded an apology for the monks.

Eight people have been charged in connection with the protests. They are being held in Insein prison in Rangoon.

The Monywa copper mine in northern Burma is a joint venture between a Chinese company and Myanmar Economic Holdings, owned by the Burmese military.

Hundreds of people are alleged to have been forced from their land to make way for a $1bn (£620m) expansion of the mine.

More than 7,800 acres (3,200 hectares) of land is being appropriated. Considerable damage to the environment is also reported.

Activists are calling for work at the project to be suspended to allow impact studies to be carried out, but China insists that the contentious points have already been resolved.