YANGON — The first part of the 100-acre Kanyinchaung border economic zone in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township will be completed this year, according to the state government.
“Originally, we planned to complete Zone A by March, but it was delayed because of violence,” finance, revenue, planning and commerce minister of Rakhine State U Kyaw Aye Thein told The Irrawaddy. “We will restart once stability is restored [in Maungdaw] and complete it this year.”
Violence has swept Maungdaw since Muslim militants attacked 30 police outposts on Aug. 25—killing 13 members of Myanmar security forces and prompting thousands of ethnic Arakanese, Hindu and Muslims to flee to safety.
Subsequent Myanmar Army security operations have been labelled as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN and sent some 400,000 self-identifying Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.
Zone A of the economic zone is expected to cost 2.2 billion kyats (US$1.6 million). The Rakhine State government will invest 1.5 billion kyats and Nat Myit Alintan—a consortium of four companies from Maungdaw and three from Yangon—will invest the rest.
According to the Rakhine State government, it established an economic zone rather than a border trade zone because the former provides business opportunities for both manufacturing and service industries.
The economic zone was initiated under the previous government in 2015, but there was little progress due to the transfer of power to the National League for Democracy-led government and construction only resumed this year.
Foreign investment will be invited and security will be tightened for the economic zone, said minister U Kyaw Aye Thein.
The state government believes that low income and a lack of job opportunities contribute to instability in Maungdaw and hopes the economic zone can create jobs, wealth and peace.
U Aung Myint Thein, chairman of the Maungdaw Border Traders Association, told The Irrawaddy he envisions labor-intensive factories such as cold storage, shrimp processing plants, garment factories, rice mills, and consumer product factories in the economic zone.
It is not yet clear, however, when construction will restart.
“It is still early to say whether the economic zone will be beneficial to locals or not. We have to wait and see. No business can be successful without stability. We want the government to ensure stability first,” said U Maung Saw Win, chairman of the Mayu Region Development Association.
Kanyinchaung economic zone will be the third economic zone in Rakhine State.
According to statistics for the 2016-17 fiscal year, there are three foreign companies and 136 local companies operating in the state.
The value of trade with Bangladesh through the Maungdaw trade station for the 2017-18 fiscal year is targeted to be US$6 million and reached $5 million by Sept. 1 this year.
The trade station was closed from Oct. 9 to Dec. 24 last year because of militant attacks on border guard police posts in October, and has also been closed since Aug. 25.
Additional reporting by Min Aung Khaing. Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko KO.