The Burmese government and companies based in Burma, Japan and Thailand signed a MoU on 9 October to conduct a feasibility study and an environmental and social impact assessment (EIA/SIA) for a US$3.5 billion coal-fired power plant which the consortium is planning to build in Tenasserim Division’s Myeik City.
In January, locals held a demonstration against the project, which they say was planned without any input from residents or civil society organizations. Protesters expressed concern that the plant would damage the environment and threaten the farming and fishing activities they depend on for survival.
DVB’s Aye Nai recently interviewed Ye Min Aung, managing director of an entity owned by the Ayar Hinthar Group, the Burmese company involved in the Myeik power plant consortium.
Q: The amount of electricity this project will generate is huge—will it be used in Burma, Thailand or both?
A: Our main goal is to produce electricity and then sell it. Currently, power demand in Myanmar [Burma] is not very high. Just 100-200 megawatts is already enough for all of Tenassarim Region. But 5-10 years from now even this power plant’s projected 1,800 megawatt output won’t be enough for Tenassarim Region. In the future, demand for electricity will be much higher throughout the country if the national grid is connected. Because the project is in Myanmar we will sell to Burmese customers first, and then we will sell any excess electricity to foreign countries, particularly Thailand. At the moment, we are considering how to solve the problem faced by consumers in a country where electricity costs are already very high (400 kyat per unit). We are thinking that within a year Burma will link up with Thailand’s electrical grid and distribute electricity in Burma at a low price. This is one of our priorities.
Q: Will any electricity from this power plant be distributed to the Dawei special economic zone or other parts of Burma?
A: Yes, it will be distributed to many areas. Since this US$3.4 billion investment is so large we need to clearly demonstrate that there will be enough demand for the plant’s output in order to obtain loans from international financial institutions. Currently, Burma isn’t in a position to buy all the electricity this plant is expected to generate, but there is enough demand in Thailand. And Thailand is a willing buyer, so if Burma doesn’t buy electricity from the power plant we can sell it to Thailand. After selling our electricity to Thailand we will ask other regions in Burma whether they are willing to buy the electricity, and if they are willing to buy then we will sell it to them. In other words, we need to make this project profitable.
As a Myanmar [Burmese] businessman, I want to satisfy the electricity needs of the local area as well as the entire country. On the other hand, I want to see this region develop in a win-win fashion. It also depends on the feasibility survey and the EIA/SIA. If the survey results and the EIA/SIA are not good, then we can’t implement the project. Otherwise, the Ayar Hinthar Company won’t be able to operate in the future because we might become a public company. If we become a public company everyone will benefit because this industry has huge profit margins.
However, you can’t talk about profits without being transparent. I want local residents to participate, so we will transform Ayar Hinthar into a public company. In this sector, most players are public companies, including Marubeni and PTT [the Japanese and Thai entities, respectively, that are part of the Myeik power plant consortium]. Burma is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t have public energy companies, so I would like Ayar Hinthar to become a public company.