Myanmar courts wary investors on port project
Myanmar sought Monday to drum up investment in a stalled
multi-billion-dollar sea port project at the heart of the former
junta-ruled country's efforts to revive its impoverished economy.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and a host of Thai business
leaders flew to Dawei on Myanmar's southern Andaman coast for talks with
President Thein Sein and other officials about the joint development.
In July the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to
create a special economic zone for Dawei, with Bangkok agreeing to
provide assistance in areas including security, infrastructure and
The huge project -- led by Thai industrial giant Ital-Thai -- would
bring foreign investment for Myanmar as it emerges from decades of
military rule, and provide Thailand with a gateway to the Indian Ocean
and Western markets.
But it has faced funding difficulties and resistance from local
“Thai investors are afraid and hesitating about Myanmar's political
policies and the funding,” Ital-Thai marketing manager Pravee
Komolkanchana told AFP in Bangkok ahead of the visit.
“Thai banks are less likely to lend money if it is to invest in other
countries, especially in Myanmar.” He said a number of Japanese
investors were also due to join the trip, which the company hopes will
put the project back on track.
Potential Myanmar investors are also wary, according to a businessman
in Yangon who did not want to be named.
“We dare not invest there because of the costs,” he said. “We would
have to pay Thai salary rates.” “The project won't benefit Myanmar much
but mainly Thailand,” he added.
Work has yet to progress far beyond the construction of new homes for
the thousands of villagers due to be resettled.
Next year the developers hope to begin work on infrastructure and
factories in a planned industrial zone.
Opponents to the plan were emboldened by Thein Sein's decision last
year to suspend construction of a $3.6 billion Chinese-backed hydropower
project in the northern state of Kachin in a rare response to public
But local resistance to Dawei appears to have eased, although some
villagers are still reluctant to move despite the offer of new homes.
“We understand that we cannot stop the whole project,” said a local
environmental activist who did not want to be named, adding that
campaigners had instead vowed to oppose any coal-fired plant or chemical