Thailand and Myanmar expect to finalize details of the joint development plan for the massive Dawei project in three or four months so that construction can begin next April.
The two countries yesterday reaffirmed their commitment to joint development of a US $50-billion special economic zone (SEZ) and a deep-sea port in eastern Burma during the visit of Burmese Vice President Nyan Tan to Bangkok.
Mr Nyan Tan, also co-chairman of the Myanmar-Thailand joint high-level committee for the Comprehensive Development of the Dawei SEZ and its related project areas (JHC) met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, who is also the co-chairman of the JHC.
After the meeting, Mr Kittiratt said six subcommittees were appointed and started work immediately. Work from these subcommittees will be submitted to a meeting in Naypyitaw next month of the coordination committee chaired by the Thai PM's Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan and Burma's industry minister.
The JHC will meet again next March to finalize details of the Dawei project, he said, declining to confirm whether the Thai government will spend money for joint development of the project in Dawei, or Tavoy, in Burma’s southwestern Tenasserim Division.
“Both sides agree this project is very important to not only Thailand and Myanmar but also the Greater Mekong Subregion and perhaps the world too, as it will connect the Pacific with the Andaman Sea," said Mr Kittiratt.
But given that the Dawei project is so huge, the development will be done in phases starting with light and labor-intensive industries before heavy industries are built later, he noted.
"The confidence from international investors is the key, and so far several international organizations have expressed their interest in supporting the project. The more participation the better," said Mr Kittiratt.
Italian-Thai Development Plc, the country's largest contractor by market value, has been granted a concession to develop the Dawei project consisting of infrastructure worth $8.5 billion for the first phase.
Thai Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan, who was named the chairman of the subcommittee on infrastructure, said details will be finalized within a month including the sources of funding for roads, rail and port construction as well as water supply.
The immediate task is to accelerate construction of nearly 100 kilometres of highway from Nonthaburi through Nakhon Pathom to Kanchanaburi. This route will be connected with a road running from the Thai-Burmese border in Kanchanaburi to Dawei, said Mr Chatchart.
Somchai Sujjapongse, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, said all the details of Dawei including the financing will be concluded in the next three or four months.
Ms Yingluck said the Thai government will speed up the Dawei project, while the JHC should set priorities for which infrastructure projects to develop.
A Thai Government House source said the priority projects include a power plant, the 132-km road from the Thai border to Dawei, and the port.
The first phase of investment is worth 120 billion baht ($4 billion) for roads, a power plant and a deep-sea port, while another 81 billion is required for infrastructure and facilities in the SEZ.
Ms Yingluck told Mr Nyan Tan that Thailand and Burma may announce the results of the JHC at the ASEAN Summit Meeting in Cambodia next month in order to encourage potential investors.
Mr Nyan Tan said Burma expects the JHC meeting will inspire investor confidence, especially among Thai investors, who are the second-largest foreign investors in the country, with 27 percent of total direct investment.
This article is republished courtesy of the Bangkok Post.