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Thai PM heads to Burma for Dawei talks

Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is to meet Burmese President Thein Sein on Monday in Myanmar [Burma] for a key discussion over the Dawei special economic zone.

Burmese President Thein Sein and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in December 2011. Photo: Burmese government
Burmese President Thein Sein and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in December 2011. Photo: Burmese government 
The meeting is expected to boost investor's confidence in the development project, said Thai 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 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 (US $1 billion).

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 ($5 billion), he said.

The Thai 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 [if] 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.

This article was first published in The Bangkok Post on December 17, 2012.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 17 December 2012 12:21 )  

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