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Burma, Thailand still committed to Dawei project

A car drives on the road linking Thailand to the Thai-backed Dawei Special Economic Zone project in southern Burma in November 2015. (Photo: ERIA)

Thai officials and their Burmese counterparts remain committed to the long-awaited Dawei megaproject, with the Myanmar-Thailand Joint High-Level Committee (JHC) and the Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) to be set up soon to foster development.

Porametee Vimolsiri, secretary-general to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said the recent joint ministerial meeting held on 15-16 August in Burma agreed to revitalise the role of the JHC and the JCC to rev up the multibillion-dollar project.

New sets of the two committees, which stalled before Burma held a general election on 8 November last year, are to be established soon.

Porametee said the Burmese government is also reconsidering loan plans for the construction of the 132-kilometre road from the Dawei deep-sea port to Ban Phu Nam Ron in Kanchanaburi Province.

The Thai government last year agreed to offer a 4.5-billion-baht (US$129.5 million) loan to Burma to finance the road construction. The Thai cabinet already endorsed the loan plan.

Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said in February that construction of the road would be postponed after an inspection by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) determined that 15-degree inclines along seven stretches of the road would be unsafe for lorries.

The project was scheduled to start in March.

JICA reported 20 percent of the road will pass through mountains while 80 percent will traverse flat areas.

To address the incline problem, the agency proposed the construction of seven tunnels through the mountains. This would mean increasing the budget because tunnels were not included in the previous plans, Arkhom said.

Last December Japan signed a shareholder’s agreement for a special purpose vehicle that will operate the project.

The move was deemed significant, as Japan’s commitment to the development of the Dawei project spanning 196 square kilometres would help instill confidence among investors.

Under the agreement, Japan would hold equal shares in the Dawei SEZ Development Co with Burma and Thailand.

Japan is also supposed to help revise the project’s master plan for both the deep-sea port and the industrial estate. The full phase of Dawei development is estimated to cost 400 billion baht ($11.5 billion).