RANGOON — Burma’s government and Bangkok-based Italian Thai Development (ITD) Plc inked a long-sought deal on construction of the Dawei special economic zone (SEZ) and deep-sea port project on Wednesday, Kyaw Swar Oo, personal secretary officer for Deputy Transport Minister Han Sein, told The Irrawaddy.
The sixth working committee meeting began in Burma’s capital in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, with Thai and Japanese officials meeting members of the Dawei SEZ Management Committee and Burmese government to discuss details of the long-term investment plan that the Dawei SEZ project will require.
“Italian-Thai company and the Myanmar government signed for the project today,” Kyaw Swar Oo confirmed on Wednesday.
In a report in Wednesday’s edition of the state-run daily Myanma Alin, Minister for Labor, Employment and Social Security Aye Myint was quoted as saying the initial phase of the project would be completed within eight years of the signing of a deal with ITD. Initial construction will include the upgrading of a road linking Dawei to Kanchanaburi province, 119 km northwest of Bangkok, and the building of a small port to accomodate ships carrying materials required for the rest of the project’s development. Construction of the deep-sea port will eventually follow.
“A natural gas turbine has been constructed to supply electricity now,” Aye Myint told the newspaper, adding that interest in a stake in the project from Japan meant that some details of the arrangement were yet to be finalized.
“It means that Japan will put shares into the existing company,” Aye Myint said in the report. “We’re discussing this now.”
According to previous reports, ITD and fellow Thai firm Rojana Industrial Park planned to sign a US$1.7-billion deal to develop the first phase of the long-delayed Dawei SEZ in southeastern Burma’s Tenasserim Division. The project’s first phase will include a 27-square-kilometer industrial estate.
The Ministry of Transport’s Han Sein told Myanma Alin that the second “main phase” of the project would cover about 50,000 acres.
“The small port, at which 15,000-ton ships will be able to dock, is already done; construction of cargo warehouses and dredging of the mouth of the port are ongoing,” he added.
The Dawei Special Economic Zone project has been stalled for years. Delays were largely blamed on ITD, which had failed to secure private investment and agree on a power source for the complex.
When completed, the project has been billed as a major time- and cost-saver, allowing cargo ship to avoid passing through the busy Strait of Malacca an instead dock at Dawei. The SEZ’s boosters say it will also provide jobs and revitalize the economy of Dawei, but the project has faced resistance from some locals concerned about its environmental impacts, while others have complained of inadequate compensation for lands seized to make way for the multi-billion dollar development.