Myanmar officials say work on Dawei SEZ could restart

Plodding progress is being made on the long-delayed Dawei Special Economic Zone, according to Tanintharyi Region government officials, who are hoping the project will restart soon.

Regional government officials visited Japan last month to discuss that country’s potential participation in the SEZ and reported strong interest, the Myanmar Times reported on Thursday.

Tanintharyi Region chief minister Lae Lae Maw and other region government officials visited Japan in January, and a special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Nay Pyi Taw on Jan 29 to discuss the zone, according to Lae Lae Maw’s office.

Abe confirmed back in 2014 he would support the economic zone, a joint project between Thailand and Myanmar that aims to link the Andaman Sea to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand.
But there has been no specific announcement on Japan’s investment in the zone.
Tanintharyi Region finance minister and vice president of the Dawei SEZ Management Committee Phyo Win Tun, who was part of the Japan delegation, told the Myanmar Times that Japan was becoming more interested in the project, which would likely restart soon.

“We can’t announce what was discussed in the meetings with the Japanese government as there are still further discussions to take place between the SEZ committee and the regional government,” said Phyo Win Tun. “But it is very obvious that Japan has become more interested in the project, and that’s a sign that we should restart it after its pause.”

In the last few months the SEZ committee has also had more interaction with Italian-Thai Development (ITD) Plc, one of the firms forming a consortium of private developers that signed a concession agreement with the government in 2015, Phyo Win Tun said.

The consortium includes ITD, Japanese-Thai joint venture Rojana Industrial Park Plc and LNG Plus International Co, also from Thailand.

The Daiwei SEZ has been in the works for years. Myanmar and Thailand first signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the area in 2008, and two years later Myanmar granted a 60-year concession to ITD to develop a deep-sea port, industrial estate, and road and rail links to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi.

ITD then withdrew from the agreement in 2013 citing financial difficulties, before resigning the concession agreement in 2015.

Lay Lwin, a founder of local civil society group Dawei Development Association (DDA) that has campaigned for a transparent development process, said there has been no activity on the ground since 2013.

Although talks with the developer are moving forward, ITD “wants to amend some of the facts inside the contracts”, said Phyo Win Tun, adding that the possibility of amending the contract had been discussed in the last two meetings between the committee and ITD, but exactly what the amendments would be is yet to be decided.

Htay Aung, a spokesperson from the SEZ Management Committee President’s office, also said that Japan would likely get involved during the final phase of the SEZ’s development, but not the initial phase.

Source: Bangkok Post

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