News / Asia

Burma Turns to Japan, Thailand to Kick-start Stalled Dawei Project

FILE - Dawei Development Company's Managing Director Somjet Thinaphong discusses a model of the economic zone.
FILE - Dawei Development Company's Managing Director Somjet Thinaphong discusses a model of the economic zone.
Reuters
Burma is set to wrest control of its Dawei industrial complex from a Thai company, Italian Thai Development (ITD), over its failure to attract investors to a strategically located, multi-billion dollar project tipped as a game-changer for regional trade.
 
According to two sources involved in the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ), plans have been overhauled to inject foreign capital and expertise to revive what is arguably Southeast Asia's most ambitious industrial zone - a 100 sq mile deep-sea port, petrochemical and heavy industry hub on the slim peninsula separating the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
 
The project's leader, ITD, and firms it had made contracts with, have been told to cease activities at Dawei to undergo due diligence by international auditors to create “better modality”, according to a senior Burmese government official.
 
The review of a project that was for years stuck in a quagmire could be a significant boost to swelling Japanese industrial interests in the region, which include numerous deals with Burma's pro-business, quasi-civilian government and long established automobile and high-tech manufacturing plants in neighboring Thailand, where firms like Honda, Toyota, Canon and Toshiba operate.
 
The planned complex, which will include a steel mill, a refinery and a power plant, will be linked by highway to Bangkok and Thailand's eastern seaboard industrial zone.
 
That will mean Dawei could serve as an industry and trade gateway to Southeast Asia's markets, bypassing the Malacca Straits, the world's busiest shipping lane.
 
Burma would ask for Japanese and Thai government support to appoint companies to carry out a revised plan for the first stage of Dawei. This stage would include the development of a small port and access roads and setting up a water supply system and small gas-fired power plant “as quickly as possible”, the government source said, adding that it had yet to be agreed which firms would be involved.
 
The second stage would involve international tenders for the bigger projects, including the deep-sea port, and the building of a bigger power plant, which could be coal-fired.
 
Junta’s Deal Ditched?
 
It had also yet to be determined what role ITD, Thailand's biggest construction company, would play in a project for which it was granted a 75-year concession under a deal struck in the 1990s with Burma's then military government, which ceded power in 2011.
 
“We're trying to figure out a different model where ITD is going to be involved as well as other investors. We're talking about billions of dollars, how can one company be able to develop all these projects?”, the source asked.
 
A Burmese delegation was due to meet Thai and Japanese government officials in Bangkok starting on Wednesday. Thailand's commerce minister said the gathering would see ITD relieved of its lead role and reimbursed for costs incurred.
 
“The meeting's agenda also includes termination of ITD's contract in terms of the company's role as Dawei project manager,” the minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, told reporters.
 
“[Burma] wants to open up this project to other parties and involve international companies and governments in the other phases of Dawei's construction and wants to ensure the project's transparency,” Niwatthamrong continued.
 
Burma's move on Dawei comes amid a series of liberal economic reforms to attract jobs and investment to one of Asia's poorest states. One year ago, the country asked for Thai support for the project and the government pledged financing from Thai banks, including Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank.
 
Investors have expressed reluctance to commit to Dawei because of reservations regarding the leadership of ITD, which was dealt a blow last year when Max Myanmar, a company owned by local construction and banking tycoon Zaw Zaw, announced it would divest its 20 percent stake. Burma's government has until now had a hands-off approach to Dawei, but ITD has struggled to find private investors.
 
Despite being hailed by ITD as “the new global gateway of Indochina”, with an estimated $50 billion value within the next decade, the project has been fraught with difficulties from the outset, including issues finding a power source amid concerns about pollution from a proposed 4,000 megawatt coal-fired plant, which Burma's government rejected.
 
A finance industry source in Bangkok with close knowledge of the deal said ITD would most likely back out of the broader Dawei plan due to a lack of funds, but would be likely to stay on as the main contractor for infrastructure. ITD officials did not respond to requests for information.
 
Burma's decision to overhaul the plan follows rapid progress on its 5,900-acre Thilawa economic zone, near the biggest city, Rangoon, which is to be run by a Burma-Japan joint venture involving Mitsubishi, Marubeni and Sumitomo, plus support from the Japanese government.
 
Edwin Vanderbruggen, a Rangoon-based business lawyer with the law firm of VDB Loi, said the new approach to Dawei would be more efficient and financially secure as big players would be involved, especially those from Japan.
 
“It's too large to be a single-purpose, Thailand-oriented project. This is on a Southeast Asia scale, so its better to broaden the base,” he said.
 
“There's been a lot of progress made. The regulatory framework has changed, the perception of the country has changed. It has improved. Maybe that's why they want to reboot it,” Vanderbruggen continued.

You May Like

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs