For the last couple of years PJ Wood has focused on growing its manufacturing base in its Chonburi headquarters.
As it continues to expand and shifts to be a truly regional company it has acquired Myanmar’s largest rubberwood company from a leading Japanese multinational group, and aims to transform it into a sustainable manufacturing hub within the next few years together with its local Myanmar partner.
“Other than operating efficiently our secondary purpose in entering the country is to share our knowledge and know how in creating a company that provides happiness to both customers and employees through the standards that we have internally created over the years” according to Mr. Andrew de Jesus, CEO of PJ Group. Mr. de Jesus added that the most important aspect for PJ Wood is to be a leader in ethical and sustainable standards.
The sawmill and timber facility located in Mawlamyie, Mon State a four hour drive from Yangon will be a strategic location in the future as it is within Asia highway and within a few hours from the Thai border of Mae Sot. Currently the facility is the largest rubberwood facility in the country, and surrounded by the largest rubberwood plantations in Myanmar.
“This acquisition will help strengthen and manage our operational risks, given the changing demographic in Thailand for labor intensive industries. Our goal is to fully automate our Thai operations and slowly shift labor intensive operations to Myanmar”. This will be done in several phases, during the first phase the focus is to support the Thai market, according to Mrs. Busayakorn de Jesus, Director of PJ Wood. As a monthly visitor to Myanmar for the past eight years de Jesus believes that the country and its people have a very similar culture to Thai’s. “We understand that their will be initial hurdles in setting up operations in Myanmar, however, we believe that the long term prospects of Myanmar is very bright”
Repression and violence against ethnic minorities carries on, even in the face of international investigations.
For Myanmar, the onset of Covid-19 has sparked a renewed crackdown in Rakhine and Chin states. These developments may not capture widespread attention – particularly as relations with China become increasingly fraught – yet they cannot be ignored, and must be recognised as a serious threat to regional security by Australia and others. If anything, the Rohingya refugee crisis of recent years should be a reminder of the enormous potential for regional consequences of such conflicts.
Conflict escalated in January 2019, when the Arakan Army (AA) – an armed group seeking an independent Rakhine state – attacked four police posts, killing 13 officers. In the months that followed, Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, sought to crush the separatist group with its “Four Cuts” strategy—targeting food, funds, intelligence, and recruiting with a military campaign totalling 15,000–25,000 troops, coordinated air strikes, and the largest ever active-duty deployment of the Myanmar Navy.
As recently as February this year, the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre, under chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, has sought a bilateral ceasefire agreement. Yet as travel restrictions postponed peace talks, violence in Rakhine state intensified, and on 23 March – the day of Myanmar’s first recorded case of Covid-19 – AA was declared a terrorist group.
What has followed is the displacement of over 157,000 people and hundreds of civilian deaths, in a military advance that UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee decried as “systematically violating the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law”. Lee leaves her role at the end of a six-year post dominated by anti-Rohingya violence, with an open investigation into Tatmadaw crimes at the International Criminal Court and protective measures ordered by the International Court of Justice. Yet as a new crisis takes centre stage in northern Rakhine, the tragic irony of her departure is that the international community’s commitment to accountability appears to be waning.
With free movement suspended, other liberties are at risk. In a blow to press freedom, Voice of Myanmar’s editor-in-chief was jailed after publishing an interview with an AA spokesperson, and other journalists remain in hiding, threatened under Myanmar’s counter-terrorism laws. Simultaneously, an internet blackout first imposed on Rakhine state in June 2019 has been extended, with telecom providers compelled to block 221 websites – including multiple Rakhine-based news agencies – in a move Myanmar’s Digital Rights Forum alleges is a deliberate subversion of powers invoked to suppress Covid-19 misinformation. A concession by the President’s Office on 3 May suggests mobile restrictions could be eased, but even under this reversal, mobile users in the majority of townships would be limited to public health updates via SMS.
These are the actions of a government acting with impunity, and although Australia’s diplomatic resources have been stretched by a historically unprecedented repatriation campaign, security interests demand greater action.
As a starting point, Australia should take steps to strengthen international oversight and place increased political pressure on leaders in Nay Pyi Taw. Quickly re-establishing a full diplomatic presence in Yangon should be supported by an active campaign to pressure the Tatmadaw into adopting a previously-rejected ceasefire, better securing humanitarian workers and Covid-19 responders.
A second step would be to coordinate renewed international commitments to deterrence. As lapsed state contributions trigger a “liquidity crisis” in the UN’s core agencies, Australia should use the final months of its term on the Human Rights Council to buttress the OHCHR’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. Although constrained by the pandemic and the Council’s distant seat in Geneva, its evidence-gathering function is a key link to pursuing individual criminal responsibility. Its broad mandate – to gather evidence of all serious international crimes in Myanmar since 2011 – encourages restraint generally, not only against the Rohingya, for which it was initially formed.
Pursuing transparency and accountability through international institutions will be equally important for November’s general elections, the first since Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD’s historic victory in 2016. Then, the NLD’s decision to nominate its candidate as Chief Minister for Rakhine overrode a majority result in favour of the Arakan National Party and inflamed separatist anger. Now, in a process already fraught with complex conflict dynamics, ongoing Tatmadaw operations risk a self-fulfulling cycle of disenfranchisement, one where elections are postponed to prevent violence that is, in part, a by-product of electoral disaffection. DFAT’s Australia Assists program, with its focus on the Rohingya crisis and its operational expertise in humanitarian coordination and electoral integrity, would be a model intermediary.
For Australian interests, it is not the fact of violence that is most concerning, nor the effect of displacement on regional stability. More than this, it is in the normalisation of hostility against dissenting ethnic voices and the threat posed by a military unchecked by international sanction.
Placating the interests of armed separatists is an outcome Australia should avoid. Yet in a region where the dominant power continues to flout international norms and pursue the aims of an ethnically dominant party state, curbing the rise of authoritarianism is a strategic priority. Even with the distractions of Chinese obstruction and a global pandemic, Myanmar and the violence in Rakhine state is a crisis Australia cannot afford to ignore.
Determined to ameliorate the living conditions of the communities living around and in the tea gardens of Assam, Twinings has committed to renew its partnership with Unicef for an additional five years of funding toward the communities of tea gardens in Assam. During their eight long years of association, this partnership has empowered more than 34,000 women by heeding to their vital health needs.
With more than 63 tea gardens in Assam, the communities living there are most vulnerable due to the lack of appropriate healthcare facilities to women, adolescents and children. Thus, Unicef -Twinings association has embarked on a social protection mission in the quest to uplift and improve the lives of women and children living around Assam’s tea gardens which are responsible for more than 50 percent of tea production in India.
It is reckoned that with better health services and safe environment around, the likelihood of children – both boys and girls going to school would increase, impacting their future in a positive way. Executive director of Unicef UK Mr. Mike Penrose expressed, “Children growing up in Assam’s highly marginalised rural tea communities face huge problems. They are vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and abuse, often leave school early and suffer from poor health.”
The social upliftment being aimed through this collaboration involves active engagement with the tea producers and government at the local, state and central level.
With their support and collective efforts, Twinings – Unicef intends to promote kitchen gardens, educate the adolescents on better hygiene, sanitation and important life skills. Twinings CEO Mr. Bob Tavener expressed, “It includes advocacy with both state and national government, that should lead to long-term, tangible change for the communities living and working in the region and is an important part of driving positive change for the communities from which we source around the world.”
Continuing with its resolve to relieve the tea workers of Assam, the renewed partnership between the British owned Twinings and the Unicef is a testimony to this resolve and commitment driven towards improving the standard of living of the tea communities of Assam.
India’s Exim Bank under its Market Outreach Programme has evinced interest to invest in the healthcare sector of Myanmar. Post its liberalisation, interest from the global sphere in Myanmar’s investment landscape has revitalised, making the country more engaged and interested in the buzzing economic prospects offered by the word outside.
To fiscally benefit and support Myanmar’s health segment, a delegation from India’s Exim bank reached Myanmar early February as part of the bank’s Market Outreach Programme. This programme was undertaken to help the people of Myanmar receive better medical facilities in their own country. India has been well equipped in treating health problems owing to its advanced medical expertise and knowledge. This arrangement aims to provide affordable and efficient medical attention to the ailing people of Myanmar and prevent the urgency to travel to countries abroad for an expensive medical treatment leading to outflow of foreign capital from the reserves of the country.
Along with it, the opportunity to finance Indian investment in Myanmar was reckoned tantamount to Government of India’s Act East Policy. The delegation, on studying various sectors in the region perceived healthcare domain as the most significant segment in need of private sector investments. The Market Outreach Programme was carried out by the Exim Bank at Hotel Sule Shangrila, in association with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The delegation to Myanmar was led by the Deputy Managing Director of Exim Bank of India Mr. Debashish Mallick. Members from Indian private sector hospitals, medical equipment and devices manufacturers, pathology labs, and hospital management companies were part of the delegation.
With an extensive telecom sector already placed in Myanmar, country’s new and fourth telecom operator announced its presence at its launch ceremony held in Kempinski Hotel at Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. With its predecessors – MPT, Telenor and Qatar positioned well in the telecom market, Mytel is all set to carve a niche for itself by reaching out to 92 percent of the country’s population with rural population in major focus.
Chief Communication Officer Mr. U Zaw Min Oo expressed, “In villages, people use more voice service than data. In regards to making profit in rural areas, I am afraid even the existing operators are not making profit from the rural areas. But we are trying.”
In a joint venture with Myanmar and Vietnamese firms, Mytel is owned by
Myanmar National Telecom Holdings Public Company Limited, Star High Pubic Company Limited and Viettel Global, with their percent stake as 23, 28 and 49 respectively.
While presiding over the launch ceremony of Mytel, Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Mr. Min Aung Hlaing talked about the lifestyle changes and the improved socioeconomic status of the people as a result of telecommunication systems.
It is estimated that Mytel SIM cards would be out in the market by March on 3G and 4G networks. Believers of Mytel intend to make their telecom operator the second largest in the next three years and first in the next five years.
The Commander-in Chief of Defence Senior General Min Aung Hlaing made the first call to Vietnamese Defence Minister Mr. Ngo Xuan Lich through Mytel operator.
Mytel intends to make use of the Asia- Africa- Europe submarine cables and reduce service charge to have an edge over its competitors.
With 1100 employees and more to get inducted as it begins its operations in March, it aims to cover 92 percent of the population, wherein 99.3 percent would be urban population and 66 percent would be rural population in voice calling service and 78 percent of the country’s population in data service.
With a 15 year term license and 18 branches across the country, Mytel plans to invest $2 billion in telecommunication and information technology to provide its services across Myanmar.
A compendious report outlining Myanmar’s historical, social and geographical data has been compiled and jointly published in detail by The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and the German International Cooperation (GIZ).
Mr. U Thitsar, a private sector specialist at the World Bank commented on the beneficial nature of the report, “This report is extremely comprehensive. It contains information from demographic to topographical conditions in Myanmar. It includes data on the various regions where it is densely populated, for example.”
The report titled ‘The Socio- Economic Atlas of Myanmar’, is a complete manual giving an in-depth analysis of all regions of Myanmar – population density, area occupation, distribution of wards, villages, townships across all the regions and the spread of religion in all the states.
The Socio-Economic Atlas of Myanmar is an engaging encyclopaedia for all the investors, inviting them to take learned and wise investment decisions. Its conduct examining the investment potential of the country in great length is inclined toward helping foreigners in their investment plans in Myanmar, and to beef-up foreign direct investments in the country.
This thorough compilation of varied data pertaining to Myanmar has put to rest all the complications and inconveniences that used to accompany a foreign investor in trying to procure appropriate information on Myanmar. Now, instead of physically travelling to relevant departments or sectors to hunt for details, all the data is a readily available resource, complied into an accessible publication for all the interested investors in Myanmar.
It also serves as an exhaustive knowledge bank for all the policy makers, engaged in public projects. Composed of all the information relating to infrastructural necessities, Mr. U Thitsar remarked, “Take urban planning projects for example. Which locations should they develop? Which locations have the densest population? As the report also includes information on infrastructure requirements such as roads and bridges, it would greatly benefit policy makers.”
Israel’s Ambassador Mr. Daniel Zohar Zonshine in a very confident and undeterred pose expressed his interest in continuing to support the agricultural sector of Myanmar even amid the outbreak of an indurate political occurrence, sweeping Myanmar to the den of criticism.
He established investor’s protection and security as the pivotal premise in being able to pave way for a robust and engaging economic relationship between Israel and Myanmar. In other words, an economic environment that has the potential of attracting the interest and confidence of an investor should be the primary goal. He acknowledged that an investor’s security generates and accelerates the investment canvas of a country and thus, Myanmar’s investment interactions should be recognised in this light.
Israel’s involvement in reforming and realigning the agricultural sector of Myanmar’s is over 20 years old. Its support in providing advanced technological know-how and proficient expertise has helped Myanmar in redefining its agricultural scale.
In the past, Israel has successfully conducted agriculture – training programmes for Myanmar students, allowing them to study and work in private rural settlement areas. Getting paid for their research projects which range from greenhouse activities to husbandry farming, has been encouraged too.
Being an agriculturally driven economy,the Israeli efforts in welcoming the Burmese students to their pool of technology, and exposing them to their level of efficiency and farming practise, Myanmar’s future in agriculture seems positive and supported. The training camp running for 11 months ensures an evolved youth who is well versed in all stages of agriculture; from planning, preparation, cultivation to harvest and post-harvest etcetera.
While remarking on the collaborative relation with Myanmar in the agricultural sector, Mr. Zohar Zonshine also noted, “Agriculture is a chain: by strengthening one link, you may not necessarily get better results unless the whole chain is improved. It has to do with agriculture research, access to technology and finance, and farmers being able to access information, data, and infrastructure. Other areas to have added value are developing the processing industry – it gives more jobs for people who cannot continue with agriculture, and leaves more added value in the country.”
It is in the best interest of both the countries to aid in training and capacity building aspects of human resource engaged in agricultural work. The ambassador also mentioned about an Israeli company’s presence in Myanmar – Netafim, helping Myanmar with its drip and micro-irrigation products. Thus, an active exchange of expertise, skills and technical know-how has helped Myanmar’ agriculture sector improve and develop.
Japanese involvement in India’s keystone infrastructural projects has significantly contributed in supplementing India’s growth stories. Its efforts and interest remain relentless and persistent as it embarks upon developing and boosting infrastructural prospects in the North – East of India while leveraging on the North-eastern pool of resources and its proximity to the South-East Asian countries.
With India being weighed as the gateway to the South East region, and also actively interested in pursuing its Act East policy, Japan’s interest in providing its technical know-how, expertise and experience in the realm of connectivity based infrastructure: roads, railways, electricity, disaster management, forest resource management and so on, is loud and clear.
Against this backdrop, the Coordination Forum for Development of North – East has been set up by India and Japan to expedite infrastructural development in the North Eastern part of India, after the Ministry of Development of NorthEastern Region (DONER) recognizes the priority areas that require immediate attention and operations.
The India – Japan Cooperation Forum for Development of NorthEast included officials from external affairs, finance, road transport, power as important participants, along with Japan Embassy’s ambassador, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu and DONER Minister, Mr. Jitendra Singh, who inaugurated the forum.
The relationship between Japan and India has strategically gained significance and both the countries look forward to an engaging people-to-people and cultural exchange platform to seek, supplement and strengthen developmental opportunities while maintaining and building historic relations.
As per the International Community, Japan and India have the potential to be mutually-giving partners, with the surfeit of North-Eastern manpower available to boost Japan’s economy and Japan’s intrinsic and engaging interest in developing the NorthEastern part of India.
Singapore‘s MOSB Limited -Myanmar Offshore Supply Base, has been granted authorization to set up an oil and gas supply base, becoming the first overseas company to do so in the Mon State of Myanmar.
Myanmar has welcomed this project with great energy and enthusiasm as it gets approved and endorsed by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) and the Ministry of Electricity and Energy.
With this arrangement, the oil and gas industry in Myanmar is expected to boom and impact the communities around by furnishing employment opportunities as well as aid in providing infrastructure, health and education facilities. Also, the travel time shall get substantially reduced, thereby, enhancing efficiency and productivity.
The Executive Chairman of MOSB, Mr. Leonard Oh, stated, “The planned offshore supply base would reduce the traveling time for oil and gas companies with Myanmar operations, who would otherwise have to travel to Singapore or Thailand.”
Contributing to the growth and expansion of Myanmar’s economy, MOSB’s efforts and commitment to boosting business shall involve its investment in refining the expansive and widespread infrastructure, transportation and the associated telecommunications.
U Zaw Min Oo, Village Head of Waeka Li Village, Mon State believes, “This will support the local communities by creating a lot of job opportunities, and will most definitely improve our standard of living in many different ways.”
The joint venture between Two Fish Supply Base Limited of Myanmar and 2 Fish (SG) Pte Ltd of Singapore is represented by the MOSB company, engaged in abetting the growth plans of Myanmar.
Liberalization has long awaited the economic gates of Myanmar. With political dynamics steering towards democratization, the economy’s transition from being centrally controlled to a market-oriented one has been a laudable move.
The investment climate has been impacted most favorably, fueling the economic environment around with a sense of excitement, inspiration and unprecedented growth.
To encourage and ease the facilitation of business activities and operations, Myanmar’s new Investment Law got enacted and approved by the cabinet in the beginning of 2017. This law was originally drafted in 2013, with the aid and experience of experts and International Finance Corporation (IFC). It also endows within its ambit the details of the Foreign Investment Law drafted in 2012 and the Citizens Investment Law of 2013
The enactment of the new Investment Law and the entrepreneurial environment has led the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) to prioritize areas for investment by foreign and local businessmen.
These areas include – agriculture, livestock, fishery, export promotion, import substitution, power, logistics, education, health care, affordable housing construction and establishment of the industrial estate.
Myanmar’s untapped economic potential, along with its geographical proximity with major South-East Asian economies, with lowest population densities in the region and an abundance of the vast reservoir of natural resources makes Myanmar’s investment landscape an attractive proposition for the investors.