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  • China Focus: Lancang-Mekong cooperation enriches countries along the river

    03/28/2016

    A border railway station which has been in existence for more than 100 years in southwest China’s Yunnan Province got a new lease on life last year after having been left desolate for a decade.

    The cargo train via Shanyao Station on the China-Vietnam border hit the buffers in 2013 and was suspended for a while. The service has since resumed and is now busier than ever.

    A railway linking Kunming in Yunnan province and the border with Vietnam opened in December 2014 and the following year 366,400 tonnes of cargo — iron ore, sulfur, fertilizer and so on — flowed from China into Vietnam via Shanyao, over 100 times more than the year before. Already this year, 89,700 tonnes of goods have gone the same way.

  • Laying down the ‘dictator law’ for money

    03/24/2016

    The prime minister, who seized power in May 2014, wants all Thais to have a better life and increased income, despite looming economic problems.

    But to achieve his goal, there’s one condition. Gen Prayut has to use Section 44 of the interim charter, the so-called dictator law, which allows him to bypass checks and balances to fast-track development projects.

    The hope is that as a result of the orders, 12 new SEZs and dozens of mega projects will pump trillions of baht into the economy by the end of the year.

  • Order flawed but regime doesn’t care

    03/15/2016

    In plain words, the NCPO’s order No.9/2559 can only quicken projects when it assumes the EIA and EHIA will be approved as a rubber stamp. All other attempts to justify it are illogical.

    But then again, there is a similar failed logic here as in past suggestions that people grow velvet beans instead of rice, shower less in the face of drought or refrain from making sparks to avoid wildfires.

    As the military regime lingers on, the daily dose of illogicality is increasing and becomes more flagrant. If a fast-track solution is ever needed, it’s to expedite the exit of one immodest man’s rule to the more sensible one-man, one-vote.

  • Thai junta slashes EIA procedures on state projects

    03/09/2016

    The Thai junta enacted a new order to cut short the process to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment on mega project constructions.

    On Tuesday, 8 March 2016, the public website of the Royal Gazette published the latest order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Order 9/2016.

    The title of the NCPO’s Order 9/2016 reads ‘Additional Laws on Promotion and Protection of the Quality of Nation’s Environment’

    The order was authorised on Monday by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, who invoked authorities under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the regime absolute power, to enact it with immediate effect.

  • Civil society steps up Dawei SEZ campaign

    03/09/2016

    A civil society group has published a comprehensive report on mistakes made by the developers of a highly ambitious project in Dawei in the hope the new government will address their concerns before allowing the project to continue.

    The report urges the project’s Thai and Japanese investors to resolve problems affecting local communities before they continue building the special economic zone and deep-sea port in Tanintharyi Region.

    Published on March 7 it outlines a range of issues dating back to the zone’s inception in 2008. The recurrent theme is a lack of transparency, dialogue or compensation based on the developers’ lack of respect for local communities and its reluctance to engage.

  • Emergence of a “Green Generation” in Dawei Special Economic Zone

    03/08/2016

    On a chilly January morning, wearing just a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, 19-year-old Naing Naing Win rode his family’s old Honda 125cc motorbike along a dusty, sandy road. His destination was Mayin Gyi village, about half an hour from his village of Thit Toe Tauk, Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar. As a youth living near a planned massive industrial zone, he knew that the days of riding his old bike along dusty, undeveloped roads might be limited.

    Naing Naing Win is a second year student from Dawei University majoring in English. Like other youths in the area, he has both worries and hopes about what the Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) will bring to his community. But he’s eager to be part of the process. He made that chilly morning motorcycle ride to attend a Community Research Training in Mayin Gyi, which he saw as a potential step toward engaging the company and government to make sure the project benefits local communities.

  • Chinese firms seek part in Dawei SEZ

    03/07/2016

    ITALIAN-THAI Development (ITD) is forming a consortium with Chinese companies to pour investment into new infrastructure projects in Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ), as land lease in the initial phase kicks off.

    According to Somjetn Tinnapong, managing director of Myanmar Industrial Estate (MIE) – an ITD subsidiary responsible for the development of the 27-square kilometre initial phase – the consortium will consist of private and state-owned Chinese companies. Their focus will be on the 132-kilometre, four-lane road, which will require an investment of Bt13.5 billion and three ports that will cost US$400 million (Bt14 billion).

  • Myanmar: The great land rush

    03/02/2016

    Hla Ohn May still weeps when she takes the road past the twisted white piping of the gas terminal near the western Myanmar town of Kyaukphyu. The 46-year-old farmer and mother of five once owned land on this green strip perched above the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.

    Then she and fellow villagers were bought out by a consortium, which included the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation and the Korean conglomerate Daewoo. Kyaukphyu is now the starting point for a pair of immense Beijing-backed transnational energy pipelines, turning these wild shores into what some are calling “China’s west coast”.

    The development is a big part of fast-opening Myanmar’s efforts to exploit its position at the crossroads of Asia. The lush fields where Ms Hla Ohn May and other farmers used to plant rice and beans are mere industrial landscaping now, manicured behind fences by company workers in orange jumpsuits. Ms Hla Ohn May was paid Kt2.78m ($2,250 at current exchange rates) but feels she was short-changed for giving up the only productive asset she ever had.

  • ‘Economic Growth Is Not the Best Way to Solve Economic Problems’: Policy Advocate

    03/01/2016

    A public seminar entitled “Myanmar’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs): Opportunities or Threats to Local Communities” attracted regional development specialists to Rangoon this week, including Penchom Saetang, Director of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH).

    In her work as a community and policy advocate, Saetang fights for corporate and government accountability concerning health and environmental problems from industrial pollution.

    As Burma is developing three SEZs in Arakan State and Rangoon and Tenasserim divisions, respectively, problems have been highlighted concerning land confiscation, a lack of public consultation and forced relocation.

    The Irrawaddy’s Yen Snaing spoke with Saetang about Thailand’s experience promoting industrialization, and what experiences Burma might be able to draw upon from its neighbor.

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