Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thaksin's mega project to connect Bangkok with deep-sea port at Dawei, Myanmar staggers on

THE Burmese city of Dawei lies 350 kilometres (220 miles) west of the Thai capital, Bangkok. The two are separated by a stretch of mountainous jungle and have never been connected. But over the past five years, Thailand’s biggest construction company, ItalianThai, has cut a swathe through the jungle which, once paved, will cost roughly $1m per kilometre of road. The plan is that it will connect Bangkok with a $50 billion industrial hub and deep-sea port at Dawei on the Andaman Sea.

The plan is epic in scale. At 205 square kilometres (80 square miles), the project area is the size of the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, and nearly ten times as big as Thailand’s largest industrial area at Map Ta Phut. Thailand has a coastline on the Andaman Sea, but it is in the south of the country. Dawei’s proximity to Bangkok and the cheapness of Myanmar’s labour and land are attractive. And, crucially, the port would be a long way north and west of the potential chokepoint for shipping at the Strait of Malacca. Boosters of the project in Thailand suggest, somewhat implausibly, that it will increase annual Thai GDP by 2%. The hope is that the Thai middle class could soon be driving their Japanese cars over the mountains and through the jungle into Myanmar. In anticipation of a new gateway for international trade and tourism into South-East Asia, land prices in some parts of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province have already begun to rise.

Read the full article at The Economist.

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