Burma Military Chief Discusses Dawei Project with Thai PM

By Saw Yan Naing 19 September 2013

RANGOON — Burma’s military chief met with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra earlier this week in Bangkok, where they reportedly discussed border narcotics issues as well as investment projects, including the multi-million dollar Dawei deep-sea port project.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, also attended a meeting in the Thai capital with high-ranking Thai military officials. He was accompanied by Burmese military officials including Gen Hla Htay Win, chief of the general staff of Burma’s armed forces.

In the meeting with Yingluck on Tuesday, Min Aung Hlaing said he was “grateful to Thailand for taking part in the development of democracy in his country,” according to the Bangkok Post, quoting Thai government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi.

The Bangkok-based newspaper reported that Min Aung Hlaing said he welcomed Thai investment and offered assurances that his country was politically stable. He also reportedly told the Thai prime minister that Burma wanted to work with Thailand on the Dawei deep-sea port project as well as efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Many Thai businesspeople are looking to invest in Burma but have concerns about fraudulent business practices and political instability.

Min Aung Hlaing is believed to have close ties with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s eldest brother. During a visit to Burma in April last year, Thaksin met with the Burmese military chief in Maymyo, also known as Pyin Oo Lwin, in Mandalay Division.

A photograph posted on Facebook showed Thaksin sprinkling water on Min Aung Hlaing in a traditional Buddhist New Year gesture of blessing and respect.

The Shinawatra family is believed to hold property in Dawei, the southernmost town in Tenasserim Division, where a special economic zone is planned and the multi-million dollar Dawei deep-sea port project is under construction.

In July, an audio clip was posted online that was believed to capture a conversation between Thaksin and Thai Deputy Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa about how to make use of Min Aung Hlaing to gain privileged business opportunities in Burma. The two men in the recording said building close ties with the Burmese military chief would help them obtain trade opportunities.