Myanmar is negotiating with a Chinese consortium to develop a deep-sea port in Rakhine State as part of the planned special economic zone, according to military-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s Commerce Ministry and the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (Citic) are discussing the Kyaukphyu project to create an economic corridor in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
A consortium of Chinese companies won the Kyaukphyu contract for the port and industrial zone in December 2015, after State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi had won the November election but before she came to office.
Her government has since been criticised for replicating the previous quasi-civilian administration’s practice of signing Chinese business deals in secret, without keeping voters informed.
Citic includes China Harbour Engineering Company, China Merchants Holdings, Teda Investment Holding and Yunnan Construction Engineering Group and Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group.
The port project includes a road and bridge connecting the industrial park, due to be constructed in four phases over 20 years.
Myanmar’s parliament has reportedly voiced support for the special economic zone, saying it will boost economic growth in the resource-rich but impoverished border state.
Large areas of Rakhine State have been cleared in recent years by the military-controlled authorities in the ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya-Muslim population.
Citic said more than 100,000 jobs would be created for them every year.
By 2025, 90 per cent of the project managers’ positions would be undertaken by citizens of Myanmar and the two projects would bring about US$10 billion to the Burmese economy, it was claimed.
Citic said the Nay Pyi Taw government would receive US$15 billion of tax revenue from the two projects during the concession period when they would be handed over to Myanmar.
The high-speed rail link between Kunming (pictured) and Kyaukphyu that was dismissed by the Thein Sein government, now appears to back on track under Suu Kyi.
An agreement was signed in April 2011 only to purportedly be axed in July 2014 amid social opposition, financial feasibility, the distribution of profits and national security concerns.
In March, an agreement was signed for a feasibility study for the Mandalay-Tigyaing-Muse border and Kyaukphyu-Nay Pyi Taw highway projects. The route follows the proposed train line to the Indian Ocean, linking landlocked southwest China with global markets.
In June, Burmese minister Thaung Tun was in Hong Kong for a Belt and Road conference on economic cooperation with China. He told the media that the railway connecting Ruili in Chinese Yunnan province with Mandalay “would start quite soon”, extending south to Yangon and west to Kyaukphyu.
There is also the New Yangon City project on an area twice the size of Singapore by Chinese firms which has also been agreed with little publicity. Since March 2017, Yangon regional MPs have reportedly failed to secure details about the project.
Kunming train station in Yunnan. Picture credit: Wikimedia