The continued rehabilitation of Burma among the Asia Pacific nations has received a boost following an agreement with Thailand to invest in a $50bn industrial zone.
In his first trip to Thailand since he took office in 2010, Burma’s president Thein Sein, and Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, backed the project which encompasses the Dawei port and industrial zone in southern Burma and industrial areas along Thailand’s east coast, including the Laem Chabang deep-sea port.
The details of the scheme, which had previously been stymied by a lack of private investment, will be revealed by the two parties in August.
MaxMyanmar, the Burmese conglomerate acting as a local implementing partner, shocked investors when it pulled out of the project last month.
Overseen by Italian-Thai Development in southern Burma, the project could be one of the most important for a nation where the government is keen to revive a battered economy by attracting foreign investment after years of sanctions, reported the Financial Times.
This is first time the two governments have agreed to support the scheme together. However they did not say what level of support they would give the 250 sq km Dawei complex, a private initiative with plans for steel mills, refineries, a petrochemical complex and power plants.
Set for completion in 2018, the deep-sea port would handle goods from the Indian Ocean along a corridor running past Bangkok to its eastern seaboard, bypassing the long and congested Malacca Strait shipping lane.
As well as the ports initiative, the Thai government also pledged to help the Burmese government prepare for its role when it assumes the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014.
The two leaders also discussed possibilities for opening additional border crossings, cooperation in economic and infrastructure development, Burmese migrant labour in Thailand and the fight against narcotics.
Political and economic reforms under the Thein Sein government have led to increased foreign investment.