Thailand and Burma

22 02 2013

Readers of PPT from way back will recall that we sometimes posted on the “let’s-move-our-pollution” Dawei investment project by well-connected and royal-linked Thai industrial developers congregated around Italian-Thai and its boss Premchai Karnasuta. A recent post with back links was here.

Those following this story will find a recent report at The Irrawaddy of interest. It says, amongst other things:

The Burmese government had clearly gone cold on Dawei—which is closer to Bangkok than Rangoon by 300 km—when it refused to approve a huge 4,000 megawatt coal-fueled electricity generating plant at the site for ITD back in February 2012.

By then, Chinese government money was already building an oil transhipment terminal on the central coast at Kyaukphyu, another sleepy Burmese seaside town where gas from the Shwe field out in the Bay of Bengal will also come ashore….

“The fundamental problem with the Dawei project is that its main beneficiary is always going to be Bangkok,” regional energy industries analyst-consultant Collin Reynolds told The Irrawaddy on Feb. 19. “The Thais want it primarily as a crude oil transhipment point much the same as the Chinese are achieving with their Kyaukphyu set up.

“Thailand also sees Dawei as a place where it could expand its petrochemicals industry, which is stymied on the edge of Bangkok because of environmental and health concerns.

Dumping more taxpayer money for the benefit of royalists

22 05 2012

It is remarkable how the Yingluck Shinawatra government has appeared not so much as a clone of Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak Thai government but a clone of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

Many of the things that Abhisit did in very clumsy and elite lazy ways, Yingluck is doing “better.” So lese majeste is untouchable, red shirts languish in jail, Yingluck sucks up to Prem Tinsulanonda, and now, she throws taxpayers money at a project that subsidizes the royalist Sino-Thai business elite.

At The Irrawaddy it is reported that the Yingluck government has approved “203 projects that will cost more than 30 billion baht (US $1 billion) to support a deep-sea port and an industrial zone in Burma’s southern town of Dawei…”. The report states:

According to its Government Public Relations Department, Thailand is taking part in the development of the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial estate in Burma, a project that will help spur the Burmese economy while upgrading the western part of Thailand into a new trade hub.

Thailand urged Burma to support the plan despite the Burmese government going cold on the project. The project is promoted by the Italian-Thai Development PLC, said to be “the biggest construction company in Thailand.”

The plan has seen “local residents … complain … about unfair treatment over land confiscation and forced relocation. They worry that the development projects will cost them their land and livelihoods.” Around “30,000 people may have to be relocated by the end of 2013 to make way for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2015.”

Our earlier posts on the project were here, here and here.

What will be the next Yingluck royalist bailout?

Burma power plant canceled

10 01 2012

Regular readers will know that PPT has had several posts (start here for these) on the well-connected Italian-Thai Development company’s huge investment in Tavoy/Dawei in Burma that was a part of a development zone that included a strategy for shifting Thailand’s polluting industries to the west.

The Irrawaddy now reports that one critical element of the development – a coal-fired power station – has been canceled by the Burmese government. The story is well worth reading.

Italian-Thai Tavoy strike

16 02 2011

Readers may recall that PPT posted on the huge Italian-Thai conglomerate’s 60-year port development and operate deal for Tavoy/Dawei that was inked during a visit to Burma by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in October 2010 (see here also). In January 2011 we also posted regarding the potential impact of the deal. We had another post on royal companies and here.

It is reported in The Irrawaddy that construction is now underway, and that the first strike by Burmese workers is already recorded. It says that some “70 Burmese laborers working on the construction of the Tavoy (Dawei) deep-sea port project went on strike in early February to protest low wages and long working hours, according to local workers living in Nebule, a village track located within the project area.”

It seems that standard labor relations for Thai companies are in place: “We have to work 10 hours per day, but get paid only 3,500 kyat (US $4.11)…. We also have to work on public holidays without overtime payment and receive payments only after the 10th day of each month.” The worker also noted “there is different treatment of Thai and Burmese workers…”.

In Burma, worker protests are pretty rare. The Burmese Ministry of Labor and the Tavoy Peace and Development Council are mediating. It seems that many of the workers “have worked in Thailand before and knew the payment and work environment in Thailand.” Both Burmese workers and engineers are said to be involved, also protesting poor working and living conditions.

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