|Construction underway at the Dawei Special Economic Zone site. Photo: Mizzima|
China is showing interest in reviving long-standing proposals for a deep-water canal through the narrowest part of Thailand’s long peninsula to link the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea.
Two companies formed by the governments of Myanmar and Thailand will take over as the main developers of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, project chairman U Aye Myint told a news conference in Yangon on December 2.
The stagnant Dawei deep-sea port and industrial project took a small step forward after Myanmar agreed to secure loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to invest in significant infrastructure development.
Myanmar has worked out a 75-year plan to develop its Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in southern Tanintharyi region, seeking strategic partnership with Japan in additional to Thailand and inviting international tenders and developers for the implementation of the SEZ project.
The plan, in five phases of different duration, will be implemented on land covering 44,850 acres (18,164 hectares) in total, according to U Aye Myint, chairman of the Central Working Committee for Implementation of the Dawei SEZ.
No environmentally and socially harmful projects will be allowed in the SEZ, the first of its kind in the country, added U Aye Myint, the newly-appointed minister of labor, employment and social security.
Featuring small and midsize enterprises (SME) specialized in garments, leather products, food, rubber, industry-based agricultural products and furniture, the first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in five years, will be implemented on a land of 2,500 acres.
The second phase also spans five years, and is to be implemented on an extended land of 2,000 acres catering to steel, fertilizer, oil refinery and vehicle manufacturing factories.
The third phase, which will last 10 years, will include building plastic, chemicals and crude oil refinery factories, while in the fourth and fifth phases, commercial firms and marketing companies will be introduced.
The Dawei SEZ also includes infrastructure projects such as building a deep-sea port and a Myanmar-Thai highway, power plants, a dam and residential housing.
Myanmar and Thailand initially signed a framework agreement in November 2010 to implement the projects of Dawei deep-sea port, industrial zone, and road and rail link to Thailand in the Tanintharyi region.
Afterwards, Myanmar and Thailand set up a joint committee on comprehensive development of the Dawei SEZ and its related projects during Vice President U Nyan Tun's first visit to Bangkok in November 2012.
During his second visit in June this year to attend the Second Myanmar-Thai Joint High Level Committee Meeting in Bangkok on Dawei SEZ, U Nyan Tun called for effective implementation of the Dawei SEZ project in line with international standards.
He also urged the seeking of mutually beneficial ways for Myanmar people and investors, and choosing those who would use cutting edge technology and machines to avoid impacts on the environment.
That meeting, also attended by Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, agreed on a framework of the first five-year development plan between 2014 and 2018.
The development plan focuses on infrastructure development including roads connecting the Dawei project to border province of Kanchanaburi, small-size sea port, natural gas-fuelled power generating plant, reservoirs and land development for industrial estates.
The Thai side said the whole infrastructure development plan alone is expected to cost 300-400 billion U.S. dollars. However, the first five-year infrastructure development plan will cost only 976 million dollars.
The meeting also agreed that on the initial capital of Dawei SEZ Development, the company set up to give consultations, and invite and select investors to develop the project, both countries will hold equal shares in the company through Myanmar's Foreign Economic Relations Department (FERD) and Thailand's Neighboring Countries Economic Development (NEDA) with 12 million baht, or about 390,000 dollars of initial capital.
After inviting Japan to join in development of the project as a strategic partner, a follow-up tripartite meeting of Myanmar, Thailand and Japan have been focusing on setting up of special purpose vehicles (SPV) production base.
To boost implementation of the project, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited the Dawei region in December 2012 for the first time, pledging to cooperate closely with Myanmar to implement the project more effectively.
Dawei region serves as southern economic corridor of the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Farmland owner Win Lwin Oo has revealed that the Thai construction firm Italian-Thai (ITD) has agreed compensation with him over damages to his land caused by the construction of the Dawei-Kanchanaburi Highway.
On June 8, two sections of highway were built across his farmland and the area had to be fenced off. The local farmer accused the firm of failing to safeguard against the perishing of long-term plantations, the blockage of streams, and the perishing of crops caused by waterlogged soil during the rainy season.