Construction of Dawei SEZ back on the cards

The government is exploring ways to restart development of the suspended Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ), saying the SEZ will benefit Myanmar as well as the region.

The Dawei SEZ includes construction of the highway as well as a deep-sea port which will link Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in the ASEAN region to India, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. A port at Dawei will also shorten transportation time by eliminating the need to navigate around Singapore through the Malacca Straits.

“To implement the project, ways must be sought to hold talks between Myanmar, Thailand and Japan,” Vice President U Henry Van Thio said during a meeting with local authorities at the site of the project in Dawei, which is the capital of Tanintharyi region near the Thai-Myanmar border.

Two taskforces have been formed to look into restarting development of Dawei SEZ. One will focus on problems encountered with the developer for the initial phase, while the second task force will focus on upgrading an existing 150-kilometer road connecting the SEZ to Htee Khee.

U Than Myint, Union Commerce Minister who was involved in the meeting with local authorities told The Myanmar Times that the government is pushing for the road to be upgraded within the next two years using funds from the Thai government.

In 2015, Thailand had offered Myanmar a soft loan of 4.5 billion baht at an interest rate of 0.1pc to upgrade the road into an ASEAN-standard highway. The loan will be repayable within 20 years.

”Whether we accept the loan will be decided in the coming seventh Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw meeting,” U Than Myint said.

“After the loan is approved, a tender for the upgrade will be held. Italian-Thai Development Public Company (ITD) or other Thai construction companies can bid,” U Than Myint said.

In the works

Myanmar and Thailand first signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Dawei SEZ in 2008. 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.

However, ITD withdrew from the agreement in 2013, citing financial constraints. There were also community complaints regarding lack of adequate compensation for the construction, pollution and disruption caused.

ITD resigned the concession agreement in 2015. Since then though, progress on the development of the $8 billion SEZ has stalled, with discussions to restart development on the SEZ in April coming to naught.

Once complete though, Dawei SEZ will be one of the biggest mega-projects in Southeast Asia. Development of the the initial phase alone would cost more than $1 billion.

The Dawei SEZ project is one of three SEZ projects in Myanmar. Currently, Thilawa SEZ in southern Yangon is the only one in operation while Kyaukphyu SEZ in Rakhine has stalled due to a deadlock in stakeholder negotiations between China’s CITIC-led consortium and the Myanmar government

Source: Myanmar Times

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