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The stagnant Dawei deep-sea port and industrial project took a small step forward after Burma agreed to secure loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to invest in significant infrastructure development.
Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said on 1 October at the recent tripartite meeting with Thailand and Japan that Burma remains strongly committed to Dawei, saying that the project will play a significant role in the nation’s future economic development.
Thailand, Burma and Japan held a meeting in Yangon last Friday to discuss ways to get the Dawei deep sea port and industrial project off the ground.
It was the first tripartite meeting with Japan attending as a potential third partner in the Dawei development project.
In previous meetings of the joint high-ranking committee involving Thailand and Burma, Japan participated only in the capacity of an observer.
The neighbouring Southeast Asian nations have high hopes that Japan will eventually agree to hold a stake in Dawei SEZ Development Co (DSEZ), a special-purpose vehicle set up to manage Dawei’s port and special economic zone.
“As a representative of the Thai government, I also assured at the meeting that Thailand is ready to support the project’s development as well as the plans to attract both Thai and foreign investors to the project,” said Mr Niwatthamrong.
The minister added that Burma had also accepted Japan’s proposal to take a lead in investing in important infrastructure projects such as the port and roads.
While it has expressed an interest in investing in the Dawei project, Japan asked for time before making any decision to jointly invest in DSEZ.
In June, Thailand and Burma agreed to set up DSEZ with an equal shareholding and an initial investment of 12 million baht (US$400,000), far below the 100 million baht ($3.33m) projected earlier.
The company will be registered in Thailand.
Thailand and Burma also agreed to set up special-purpose companies (SPCs) to manage projects including the port, road and rail links, power plants, water facilities, industrial estates, a telecommunications network and the township. SPCs will be registered in Burma.
According to Mr Niwatthamrong, other countries such as South Korea and China have also shown an interest in investing in the project.
He noted, however, that the final decision to choose the third stakeholder in DSEZ will rest with Burma’s government, as Dawei is located in Burma.
Thailand is scheduled to organise the second tripartite meeting in November, with an agreement between the Burmese government and DSEZ due to be signed.