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Trade, investment mission to Myanmar

Posted by arnon_k On December - 5 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The Board of Trade of Thailand and the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) next week will lead a mission to seek new trade and investment opportunities in Myanmar.

The mission takes place amid the backdrop of fears of a serious impact on the business sector from the nationwide minimum-wage increase to Bt300 per day in the new year.

Phongsak Assakul, who heads up both organisations, yesterday said many Thai enterprises were keen to invest or form joint ventures in Myanmar as it has the highest growth potential in Asean, with the capability of serving expanding manufacturing and service businesses while possessing a large market to serve domestic growth.

“Many leading businesses in the Kingdom will look for new opportunities in Myanmar as it has lower labour costs and high consumer demand. To invest and do businesses in Myanmar will increase the competitiveness of Thai businesses,” he said.

About 20 leading enterprises will take part in the private-sector mission to Yangon from December 16-18. They include Saha Group, Mitr Phol, Thai Beverage and Kasikornbank. Business areas such as logistics, freight, cross-border trade, machinery, foods, jewellery, telecommunications, education, hospitals and hotels will be represented.

Representatives from the Board of Trade and the TCC will meet with enterprises from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry to discuss the boosting of trade and investment between the countries.

Phongsak described Myanmar as one of the best destinations for Thai investors thanks to its proximity and much lower labour costs. The daily wage in the country ranges from Bt75 to Bt120, while salaried workers earn only Bt3,000-Bt6,000 per month.

LABOUR-INTENSIVE OPERATIONS

Many Thai companies with labour-intensive operations are expected to set up in Myanmar or expand their businesses there, using the country as a production base for shipment to other regional markets, he said.

TCC vice chairman Somkiat Anuras said closer cooperation between Thai and Myanmar enterprises should help promote cross-border trade with the Kingdom’s neighbours to Bt2 trillion in the next three years.

This year, however, overall cross-border trading is expected to miss the target of Bt1 trillion, coming in at Bt900 billion because of the impact of the global economic slowdown. Border trade was worth Bt759 billion in the first 10 months of the year.

With the policy of focusing more on Asean markets, cross-border trade should grow strongly to Bt2 trillion by 2015, Somkiat said.

Myanmar is Thailand’s second-largest cross-border trading partner, after Malaysia. Bilateral trade with Myanmar grew by nearly 11 per cent to Bt145.88 billion during the first 10 months of the year.

Meanwhile, Bhumindr Harinsuth, vice chairman of the chamber, said members of the private sector would tomorrow finalise discussions on relief measures in connection with the impending minimum-wage increase, and would summarise their proposals to the government on December 14.

The proposed measures include the establishment of a fund to help small and medium-sized enterprises.

Phongsak said Thai gross domestic product was expected to expand by 4-5 per cent next year, boosted by ICT (information and communication technology) business expansion as a result of licensing for third-generation cellular service, plus growth in the construction, insurance and automobile industries.

However, the chamber projects that exports could grow by no more than 5 per cent next year on global economic concerns.

Rights groups press Obama aides on Myanmar, Cambodia

Posted by arnon_k On November - 14 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – International human rights activists met senior White House officials on Tuesday to press President Barack Obama to take a tough line with leaders in Myanmar and Cambodia during his forthcoming Southeast Asia tour.

The talks, which included Samantha Power, a top Obama adviser and outspoken expert on genocide, touched on what the president will say during his landmark visit to Myanmar to prod the quasi-civilian government to do more to curb sectarian violence, activists said.

The visit, part of a November 17-20 swing through Southeast Asia, would be the first U.S. presidential trip to Myanmar, also known as Burma. Obama is going ahead with the visit despite rights groups’ criticism it is premature because reforms have yet to be consolidated after decades of military rule.

A top official with a leading rights organization provided details of the meeting on condition of anonymity. Roughly half a dozen activists took part in the talks at the White House.

They left the meeting satisfied that Obama intends to push hard on human rights and political and economic reform in closed-door talks with reformist President Thein Sein and in his public remarks, including a speech.

But the activists were concerned Obama would not issue any public denunciation of rights abuses in Cambodia during his visit to Phnom Penh to attend an East Asia summit.

“The moral stain on this trip is Cambodia,” an activist who attended the White House meeting told Reuters.

White House officials told the rights groups, however, that Obama would take a tough approach with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in private, the activist said.

“We of course intend to raise human rights issues in both Burma and Cambodia,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

Power, considered a “humanitarian hawk” within the administration, wrote a blog on the White House website last week signaling that Obama would use the Myanmar trip to pressure the government to do more on human rights.

In Cambodia, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party has been in power for 27 years. He has faced criticism from international rights groups for his authoritarian style and a succession of land grabs, often to benefit foreign companies.

Obama’s presence in Myanmar will highlight what his administration sees as a first-term foreign policy achievement of launching the country’s transition toward democracy, and a development that could help counter China’s influence in an important region.

But a Reuters investigation into a wave of sectarian assaults on minority Muslims in western Myanmar painted a troubling picture: the attacks were organized, central-government military sources told Reuters. They were led by nationalists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state tied to a powerful political party there, incited by Buddhist monks, and, some witnesses said, abetted at times by local security forces.

The findings were published on Sunday in a Reuters Special Report.

Washington takes some credit for pushing Myanmar’s long-ruling generals toward democratic change, which helped bring Thein Sein to office in 2011. Obama will also meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

Thaksin in Myanmar in 2nd week of Nov

Posted by arnon_k On November - 1 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is scheduled to visit Myanmar in the second week of November, his legal advisor Noppadon Pattama confirmed on Thursday.

His trip to the neighbouring country would not be on Nov 10-11 as was reported by some media, he said.

During the visit, Thaksin will meet important people in the Burmese government and Thai people who visit him at Myanmar’s Tachilek township, opposite Thailand’s Chiang Rai province, he added.

Thaksin plans to stay in Tachilek for a few days to make merit and meet with his red-shirt supporters and Pheu Thai MPs who love him, Mr Noppadon said.

The lawyer said he had no idea whether or not some cabinet ministers in the Yingluck government would travel to Tachilek to meet the former prime minister.

Mr Noppada will hold a press conference on Thaksin’s visit to Myanmar at 1pm tomorrow, at the Pheu Thai Party’s headquarters.

Myanmar leader holds landmark press briefing

Posted by arnon_k On October - 23 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — Myanmar’s leader has held his first press conference since taking power in 2011, in a show of openness for the once secretive and repressive regime.

President Thein Sein fielded around 30 questions from 130 local and foreign reporters on an array of topics. The news conference, which took place at his residence on Sunday, ran over its scheduled two-hour time slot.

The reform-minded president told reporters that he felt more comfortable talking to the press after being interviewed many times during his trip to the United States last month.

However, the 67-year-old former general was careful not to reveal too much and gave few details on controversial issues.
Thein Sein, who took office in March 2011 after the country’s military junta eased their grip on power, did not rule out seeking a second term in office at elections due to take place in 2015.

“To date, according to my health condition and age, I have decided I will perform for one term,” he said.

“But I will think about what it is my country and people desire for me.”

Political prisoners among hundreds freed in Myanmar amnesty

His administration has embarked on wide-ranging economic and political reforms following decades of military rule.

The administration has released hundreds of political prisoners and allowed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi to take part in elections for the national parliament, which she subsequently won.

At the news conference, Thein Sein said that Myanmar had no plans to co-operate with the U.S. military following reports that the country may be invited as an observer to annual “Cobra Gold” U.S.-Thai military exercises next year.

“We didn’t receive any official invitation for Cobra Gold till now. So we have no plan yet to cooperate or go for observation,” he said.

However, Thein Sein said that that the country’s military, long criticized for human rights abuses, was considering sending officers to the United States for technical training.

Aung San Suu Kyi accept top congressional honor

The president also said the country’s much-anticipated foreign investment law would be enacted “very soon”,

The regime hopes to attract overseas businesses to boost its struggling economy but the bill has been delayed amid divisions over to what extent the country should be opened up to foreign investors.

Despite the considerable progress in Myanmar, concerns remain whether the military establishment, which retains control of parliament, is committed to lasting change.

The current administration has also been accused by rights activists of a harsh crackdown on the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic Muslim minority, amid violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the country’s Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh.

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