BANGKOK, July 23 (Reuters) - Thai and Myanmar leaders on Monday offered a much-needed lift to the multi-billion dollar Dawei port and industrial zone in southern Myanmar that has been struggling to find private investors.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Myanmar President Thein Sein told a joint news conference they had agreed to connect the strategically located Dawei Economic Zone with industrial areas along Thailand’s eastern seaboard, including the Laem Chabang deep sea port.
But they gave few details except to say ministers from both sides would start regular meetings from August.
The $50 billion project led by Italian-Thai Development Pcl in southern Myanmar could be one of the most important projects for the country whose young quasi-civilian government is eager to revive a battered economy by attracting foreign investment previously held back by years of sanctions.
It was the first time the two governments have said they would together support the $50 billion project led by Italian-Thai Development Pcl.
The two leaders said they had agreed to connect the new zone, with its deep sea port, with industrial areas along Thailand’s eastern seaboard, including the Laem Chabang port.
However, they did not say what level of support they would give the 250 sq km (97 sq mile) Dawei complex, a private initiative with plans to include steel mills, refineries, a petrochemical complex and power plants.
The deep-sea port, which would cost $2.5 billion and is due for completion in 2018, would bring in goods to be transported by rail or road from the Indian Ocean along a corridor that runs past Bangkok to its eastern seaboard.
The goods could either be used in Thai industrial estates there or shipped onwards to third countries, having bypassed the long and congested shipping lane through the Malacca Strait.
Ital-Thai president, Premchai Karnasuta, recently told Reuters he was in talks with companies from Japan and planned to build gas, coal-fired and hydropower plants after Myanmar’s government scrapped a planned 4,000 megawatt coal-fired plant on environmental grounds.
Through its Dawei Development Company, Ital-Thai is in a rush to find new partners after Max Myanmar, owned by tycoon Zaw Zaw, decided to reduce its 25 percent stake in Dawei.
Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jonathan Thatcher