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Thursday, Oct 2, 2014

Asia

Thai junta says will help kick-start stalled Dawei talks

Reuters | Thursday, Oct 2, 2014

BANGKOK - Thailand will revive talks with Japan and Myanmar aimed at kick-starting the floundering multi-billion dollar Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar, a junta spokesman said on Thursday.

The project is arguably Southeast Asia's most ambitious industrial zone - a 250-sq-km (100-sq-mile) deep-sea port, petrochemical and heavy industry hub located along the slim Thai-Myanmar peninsula.

Thailand's ruling junta pledged to step up involvement in the project, which has seen years of delays, following talks in Bangkok on Thursday between Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Minoru Kiuchi, Japan's vice foreign minister.

"The prime minister said we will push to develop the Dawei zone with Myanmar and Thailand and all sides are prepared to move forwards with trilateral talks so that the Dawei project can materialize as quickly as possible," Yongyuth Mayalarp, a junta spokesman, told Reuters.

The project has seen years of delays that were largely blamed on Italian Thai Development Pcl, the project's leader, which had failed to secure private investment and agree on a power source for the complex.

Thailand and Myanmar seized control of the strategically located complex, billed as a gateway for trade in Southeast Asia, from ITD, Thailand's largest construction firm, in Nov. 2013.

Japan has expressed increasing interest in Dawei - the project could be a significant boost to swelling Japanese industrial interests in the region - though talks with Tokyo have stalled.

"We would like to see the Dawei project advance in cooperation with Thailand and Myanmar after a long suspension," Kiuchi said, giving no further details.

Located in southeastern Myanmar with highway links to Bangkok and Thailand's eastern seaboard, Dawei is slated to be Southeast Asia's largest industrial complex, if ever completed.

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

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