Thura News Views Issue 231, August 25, 2016


Kofi Annan to lead Rakhine committee

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to lead a committee tasked with finding solutions in Rakhine State, where tensions simmer between Buddhist and Muslim communities. A statement from the State Counsellor’s Office, released on August 24, said the former UN head will lead the nine-member Advisory Committee on Rakhine State. The group will be given the task of finding “a national initiative to resolve protracted issues in the region,” the release said. It will include six Myanmar nationals, and three people from abroad, including U Win Mra, chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, Daw Saw Khin, vice chairperson of the Rakhine Women Administration and Ghassan Salame, who was special advisor to the UN Sec- retary-General from 2003 to 2006. According to the release, the groups will speak with people working in Rakhine State and submit its report to the gov- ernment within 12 months. The situation in Rakhine has been one of the most controversial for the new government to deal with. There have been tensions in the state since violence broke out in 2012 and today more than 100,000 people are living in camps without freedom of movement and the entire state has seen little development.

Aung San Suu Kyi returns from China trip

State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has completed her five-day trip to China, where hot topics included Myanmar’s peace pro- cess and a controversial multi-billion dollar hydropower dam on the Ayeyarwady River. The trip was made at the invitation of China’s Premier Li Keqiang and the two countries reached agreement on issues including “climate change, natural disasters and communicable diseases”, said a state- ment from the President’s Office. They also agreed on measures to enhance trade and to promote rule-of-law in the border areas. Chinese President Xi Jinping also agreed to play a constructive role in the peace process. Some of the ethnic armed groups that did not sign last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) are regarded as having close relationships with Beijing. Dis- cussions were also likely held related to the Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam project in Kachin State. The project was suspended by former president U Thein Sein and there have been calls from China for it to be re-started. Civil

society groups in Myanmar have urged the government to cancel the project outright. An editorial in Chinese state-run media denied accusations that China is exploiting Myanmar’s resources.

India Army enters Myanmar

While preparations are made for the 21st Century Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw on August 31, Indian troops have entered into Myanmar territory in semi-autonomous Nagaland, reports say. According to a story in India’s The Sun- day Express, Indian troops crossed the border near the village of Chen Moho and spent several hours in Myanmar territory before fighting broke out with troops from the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Khaplang (NSCNK). Alt- hough the fighting is unlikely to have any substantial impact on Myanmar’s peace process, it will unlikely anger the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forced, that Indian troops moved into Myanmar territory. “The raid was part of many operations intended to maintain pressure on the NSCNK. Those operations have been ongoing, and will continue,” an Indian home affairs ministry official was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, it was confirmed this week that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will attend the peace talks in Nay Pyi Taw, which most ethnic armed groups, both signatories and non-signatories of October’s Nation- wide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) appear likely to attend.


International funding key for electrification: Minister

International funding will be key to Yangon Region meeting its rising demand for electrical power, chief minister U Phyo Min Thein has said. Speaking at the Fourth Myanmar Green Energy Summit, Phyo Min Thein said that boosting the electricity sector in Myanmar will be the key to the country’s development. A report said that two-thirds of households in Yangon Region are connected to the grid, followed by 54 percent in Nay Pyi Taw, 37 percent in Kayah State and 31 percent in Mandalay Region. The average electrification rate nationwide is 16 percent in rural areas. As the country’s economy increases in the future and rapid urbanisation takes place – as many experts expect – Myanmar’s electricity demands will increase substantially. International donors – including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency –

have given a number of loans to Myanmar to help improve its infrastructure.

Sittwe included in India pipeline plans

India plans to lay thousands of kilometres of pipelines that would connect many of its north eastern states with Myanmar and Bangladesh, media reports have said. The plans, explained as “ambitious”, were revealed by Mr SC Soni, execu- tive director of India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Indian news reports said. The pipeline project would form part of India’s Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 policy and would include almost 7,000 kilometres of pipelines that would link Siliguri and Durgapur in eastern India’s West Bengal state with Sittwe in Rakhine State and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Companies and Investments

       Woodside to begin drilling in 2017

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum has said it intends to begin drilling at its Myanmar offshore sites in 2016, after discov-

eries at two sites earlier this year. The two discoveries were made in 2015, at Shwe Yee Htun-1 and Thalin-1A in the Rakhine Basin of Myanmar’s west coast. “Our competitive position in Myanmar provides us with substantial resource potential that is located close to existing infrastructure and assets,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman was quoted as say- ing in industry reports. He added that the company is looking at options of commercialising the discoveries made.

       Korea – Myanmar garment zone to be built

South Korean firm Panko Corporation has signed a memorandum of understanding with local firm Olympus Asia

Group to construct a 500-acre zone of garment factories in southern Myanmar. According to a local report, the con- sortium is currently looking for land in Yangon, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions. Reports say the factories would operate under the free-on-board model, a more advanced process than the cut-make-pack model that most factories in Myan- mar use. An official was quoted as saying that it will take three years to build the required infrastructure, which will include a waste-water treatment plant and dormitories for employees and that it will produce between 40,000 and

60,000 jobs

       Rolls Royce sets up first Myanmar service centre

Up-market car company Rolls-Royce has introduced its first centre for aftersales service in Myanmar, in partnership

with local company Prestige Automobiles. The centre is located at the BMW Showroom on Pyay Road, Kamaryut Township. The centre will provide maintenance services for Rolly’s Royce’s Phantom, Ghost, Wraith and Dawn models. U Chan Mya, managing director of Prestige Automobile Co Ltd, estimates there are about 100 Rolls-Royce vehicles in Myanmar. “Before an official service enters Myanmar, we realised there is not enough aftersales service,” said Paul Harris, Rolls-Royce’s Asia Pacific director. U Chan Mya added that the group is considering to sell Rolls-Royce cars in Myanmar depending on the results of market research. Prestige Automobiles has been the exclusive Myanmar distrib- utor since 2014.

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