Industrial zone projects are underway in Shan State’s Kokang self-administrative region, say local lawmakers who are inviting foreign investment to the area on the Sino-Burmese border.
Myi Shauk Chan, a member of the Shan State parliament from Kokang, told The Irrawaddy that three industrial zones had already been planned for his region. Construction on one, named “125-mile” has already begun, with that industrial zone covering just over 1,000 acres of land in Laogai District.
“We won’t let just China come and invest in our region; we will allow any domestic or foreign investor to do business with us,” Myi Shauk Chan said of the projects in Kokang, whose in inhabitants are largely ethnic Han and trace ancestry to southern China.
Initial construction of the 125-mile industrial zone is being carried out by the Shan State administration and a Kokang-owned company.
“We will try to reach a level where we can do packing for our products here. In terms of distribution, we will do it both inside and outside the country. Those who want to export products for international consumption must pay tax but they don’t need to do so for domestically [distributed goods],” explained Myi Shauk Chan.
Kyaw Ni Naing, another state lawmaker from Laogai, told The Irrawaddy that so far grading had been done on about 500 acres of the 125-mile project site. Locals, whose sugarcane fields were located in the planned project area, have been compensated to their satisfaction, he said.
“Over 100 villagers have been given about 30,000 yuan [US$4,955] for each acre and they are satisfied,” said Kyaw Ni Naing. “We only use Chinese money here so we compensated them with that currency.”
The 125-mile industrial zone project will reportedly include factories for tea production, auto parts, walnuts, garments and sugarcane-based products, as well as other food and beverage enterprises.
“We are doing this project for the development of our region and will follow the government’s regulations in implementation,” Myi Shauk Chan said.
He added that more than 20,000 local residents could potentially be employed by the industrial zones following their completion.
“Over 10,000 Kokang people are working in China, which buys sugarcane and tea from us, packs it and then exports it back to Burma. It will be more convenient for us if we have such factories in our area,” said Kyaw Ni Naing.
Currently, locals in Laogai grow largely sugarcane, tea, walnuts and rubber, most of which is bought up by traders from China. These plantations account for about 70 percent of the Kokang region’s economy.