Myeik island developer runs into Japanese pearl farm

A local developer’s plans to build an island resort in the Myeik Archipelago have been blown out of the water by the Myanmar subsidiary of Japanese pearl giant Tasaki, which claims the project would impact its farming area.

Myeik Public Corporation has been trying for the past two years to secure Myanmar Investment Commission approval to develop two islands in the Andaman Sea, and received preliminary permission to develop one of the islands, called Saw Mon Hla, last September.

The company had hoped to receive a permit in December to develop the project, which is situated three hours by boat from Myeik. Instead it was told by MIC to halt its plans, as the development would allegedly infringe on Myanmar Tasaki’s pearl farming block.

Myanmar Tasaki produces pearls on Kyar Mat Tat, or “standing tiger” island, which is 11 miles (18 kilometres) from Saw Mon Hla. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Three foreign companies and two local firms are involved in pearl cultivation across eight islands in Myeik, including three farms run solely by state-owned Myanmar Pearl Enterprise.

MPE held a monopoly on the industry from its inception in 1963 until the Myanmar Pearl Law was passed in 1995, opening up the sector to foreign investment. Private companies are able only to invest through production sharing contracts with the state.

“We have been trying to get approval for years and had secured first-stage approval,” said U Thet Soe, Myeik Public Corporation’s project director.

“But at the last meeting with MIC to discuss final permission, Myanmar Tasaki opposed our development on Saw Mon Hla island because it is in their extended pearl production area.”

His company had planned to invest K4.3 billion in developing 49 acres of the 1661-acre island. U Thet Soe said if the MIC or Myanmar Tasaki had opposed the project during the first round of approvals, his company would not have pursued the project.

However, because there was no initial opposition, Myeik Public Corporation has put time and resources into the project and is now facing difficulties, he said. “We are trying to negotiate with Tasaki but we are not sure whether they will accept or not.”

Myeik Public Corporation is still hoping for approval to develop the second project on Kun Thi, or “betel nut” island, through a K4.6 billion investment with Shwe Alin Eain Company, he added.

Myeik Archipelago, a group of more than 800 islands home to the Moken, or “sea gypsies”, is increasingly attracting developers who see its potential for tourism.

“There are so many beautiful places in this archipelago, but not many resorts or facilities yet to attract tourism,” U Aung Chain, project director and general manager of Myeik Public Corporation, told The Myanmar Times late last year.

The area had just five hotels and motels with a total of 196 rooms by the end of 2014, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.


Source: Myanmar Times

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