The Thai government has named a special task force headed by Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal in its latest move to kick-start the massive Dawei project in eastern Burma.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan said Mr Pongsak will lead a team to Burma today [7 November] together with officials from the Finance and Interior Ministries and the National Economic and Social Development Board.
The visit is aimed at settling issues with the project before a meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee in Bangkok later this month, said Mr Niwatthamrong, who also chairs the JCC.
A Thai Government House source said the government has asked Mr Pongsak to push for progress in the stalled project.
“Project development has been stuck because of different ideas between Italian-Thai Development Co’s Dawei Development Co (DDC) and the Burmese government,” the source said.
ITD, Thailand’s biggest contractor by market value, has been granted the concession to develop a deep-sea port and special economic zone in Dawei, also known as Tavoy.
As energy minister, Mr Pongsak will play a significant role in the Dawei project, as the government wants Thai state-owned enterprises to invest in power plants to supply industrial projects in Dawei.
Thailand and Burma initially agreed to carry out the first two projects - a small port and a road linking the Thai border to the site in Dawei.
DDC, which was set up by ITD to develop the Dawei project, wants the port and road to be part of Dawei SEZ Development Co.
But the idea is opposed by the Burma government, which says DDC must ask for a licence from concerned agencies.
DDC also plans to develop 28,000 rai (11,000 acres) as an industrial estate, but Burma wants a first phase of 6,000 rai developed first.
The source said the JCC meeting on 21 November could be postponed if the task force is unable to settle the two pending issues.
Mr Pongsak will ask Burma to allow investment in the project without waiting for Dawei SEZ Development Co to be established.
Thailand and Burma have yet to sign an agreement setting up the company.
The two countries have proposed Japan as a third partner in the concern.
But Japan has not made a decision on the issue and has asked for more time to study the feasibility of the project.
Meanwhile, Burma has agreed to seek loans from the Asian Development Bank to develop infrastructure for the Dawei project.