Thailand, Myanmar to revive South-east Asia's largest industrial zone in 2015

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein as he arrives for the East Asia Summit (EAS) plenary session during the ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw on Nov 13, 2014. The two countries will sign a pact in
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha shakes hands with Myanmar's President Thein Sein as he arrives for the East Asia Summit (EAS) plenary session during the ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw on Nov 13, 2014. The two countries will sign a pact in January aimed at reviving the multi-billion dollar Dawei industrial zone in Myanmar. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand and Myanmar will sign a pact in January aimed at reviving the multi-billion dollar Dawei industrial zone in Myanmar, a Thai minister said on Thursday.

Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisit, who is also secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said the Thai and Myanmar governments would meet to kickstart what is arguably Southeast Asia's most ambitious industrial zone.

"At the start of January 2015 the Thai and Myanmar government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to move forward the Dawei special economic zone," he added.

He said he hoped Italian Thai Development Pcl and Rojana Industrial Park Pcl would play a role in the first phase of the project.

His comments come after Thailand and Myanmar seized control of the strategically located complex from Italian Thai Development (ITD), Thailand's biggest construction firm, in November 2013.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone complex, a 250-sq-km deep-sea port, petrochemical and heavy industry hub, is located along the slim Thai-Myanmar peninsula and was described by ITD as "the new global gateway of Indochina".

The project has been stuck in a quagmire for years. Delays were largely blamed on ITD, which had failed to secure private investment and agree on a power source for the complex.

Thailand's ruling junta pledged in October to step up involvement in the project, following talks between Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Minoru Kiuchi, Japan's vice foreign minister.

Arkhom said foreign players, including Japan, were ready to get involved in Dawei, but did not give further details.

Located in southeastern Myanmar with highway links to Bangkok and Thailand's eastern seaboard, Dawei is set to be Southeast Asia's largest industrial complex when complete.

The industrial zone would be a potential boon for firms relying on the transport of goods around the crowded Malacca Strait, the world's busiest shipping lane.