Telecoms License Awards Delayed in Burma

By The Irrawaddy 26 June 2013

RANGOON—The highly anticipated awarding of two telecoms licenses to foreign companies or consortia has been postponed in Burma, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

Burma was set to announce two winners of 11 remaining bidders on Thursday. But the country’s lower house of Parliament said on Wednesday that the licensing awards would be delayed until lawmakers passed a new telecommunications law, which is still in the drafting process.

The decision to postpone the awards was made after a member of Parliament’s telecoms committee submitted an emergency statement to lawmakers urging them to favor local joint ventures in the selection of telecoms operators.

As a result of that recommendation—which came from Myo Swe, secretary of the telecoms committee and a lawmaker representing Tamu town in Sagaing Division— lawmakers in the lower house agreed to postpone announcing the winners of the tender.

“In some cases, we need to prioritize national interests,” Phyo Min Thein, a lawmaker from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, told The Irrawaddy. “Today nobody objected to the statement on the telecoms tender. Neither did I.”

Phyo Min Thein said all 401 lawmakers at Wednesday’s Parliament session approved the emergency statement and urged the Union government to implement it.

Other NLD lawmakers said they were surprised by the emergency statement and did not have enough time during the Parliament session to consider it before being asked to make a decision.

Thiri Kyar Nyo, the country representative for Digicel in Burma, declined to comment on Parliament’s decision. Digicel is one of 11 international companies shortlisted for the telecoms tender.