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Thai Industry Pushes into Myanmar

The Mekong Eye

Baht Beyond Borders #1 – Thai investment booming next door

Dawei Special Economic Zone, Myanmar

It’s unprecedented: the largest industrial estate and deep sea port complex conceived in Southeast Asia. It’s controversial: trampling pristine shorelines; felling valuable forests and orchards; paving highways through remote mountain passes and uprooting ethnic minorities all along the way.

It’s the Dawei Special Economic Zone on Myanmar’s west coast, but its drivers are all 350 km away in Bangkok. Thailand’s motivation, extend its industrial development and manufacturing to cheaper labor markets, lower property costs, less rigid environmental regulations and improved maritime logistics to points west. But critical to Thai developers realizing this vision are the Japanese. Japan’s development assistance programs have longtime bankrolled Thailand’s industrial-led development to facilitate the off shoring of Japan’s own manufacturing. Thailand’s conflict ridden, pollution-laden Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate is a major testament to this relationship. And now Myanmar is being asked to join in.

Some 200 km2 are designated for the estate. The deep sea port could service 170 million tons of goods and 5 million containers a year. The transport corridor east to Bangkok and Map Ta Phut, is slated for rail lines, power lines and pipelines to accompany the highway. A tripartite agreement between Thailand, Myanmar and Japan is scheduled to be signed in July, 2015 to devise and implement a master plan for Dawei. However, an initial phase including a 32km2 industrial estate, a 138km two-lane road between Dawei and the Thai border, initial township for the workers, a liquefied-natural-gas terminal for gas transport over long distances, a telecom landline, a power plant, a small port, and a water reservoir. Two Thai companies, Italian-Thai Development Pcl and Rojana Industrial Park, have been granted the concession for the first phase, with a completion date in 2023.

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