Category Archives: Volume 03

Myanmar Preserving Endangered Seaweed Species from Korea

Myanmar is planning to preserve endangered seaweed species in Myanmar’s Myeik Archipelago,importing some species from the Republic of Korea, according to local authorities.

Seaweed cultivation in Myeik Archipelago is seeing a drop in production because of an unknown disease. Many seaweed growers are being forced to abandon the cultivation of the once lucrative Eucheuma or “Cottonii” seaweed and turning to other sources of income.

“We have imported seaweed from Korea and are growing them to conserve in rainy season. We have nurtured about 400 seaweed plants and will distribute these saplings to other growers at the end of rainy season,” said Thein Naing, an officer from the Fishery Department.

The seaweed is not native to Myanmar and Japanese experts have tested it for possible commercial cultivation purpose. Commercial seaweed farming near the pristine islands that make up the Myeik or Mergui Archipelago in southern Myanmar began six years ago. A Korea-based MSC Company invested millions of dollars in this project by providing technical know-how and agricultural equipment to growers. The endangered green specie of seaweed was widely cultivated in Myeik Archipelago during previous years but currently only brown species are cultivated.

Myanmar to use New Hydrocarbon Production for Domestic Needs

photo: livemint.com
Photo: livemint.com

Nay Pyi Taw: In what may affect the energy security plans pursued by India and China in Myanmar, the resource-rich nation has made a precondition of its domestic demand being met before any exports are allowed. This will be incorporated in all future productionsharing contracts Myanmar plans to sign.

“Earlier natural gas was sold to the neighbouring countries as there was no significant domestic demand.Our new policy is that natural resources will be reserved for domestic demand. If there is a surplus, then we will value add and export. The idea is to meet domestic demand first,” U. Htin Aung, Myanmar’s deputy energy minister, said at a press conference on Thursday.

This comes in the backdrop of the Myanmar government receiving 75 expressions of interest for its bids called for 18 onshore blocks for exploration.

Of these it has shortlisted 59 companies for the submission of final bids. Also, the government plans to award another 30 off shore blocks. The country holds 7.8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. Contracts already signed will not be affected.

“The new rounds that we are offering has a provision that states that production is meant for first meeting the domestic demand. It is part of the agreement. The ones which we have already signed, for them we have to meet our commitments for our reputation,” Htin Aung said. Some of the Indian companies interested in these blocks are state owned ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), Oil India Ltd and private firms such as Jubilant Energy NV and Cairn India Ltd. more…

Inle Lake to Enlist as Biosphere Reserve

Surveys had been undertaken by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regarding the enlistment of the Inle Lake as a sustainable development and biosphere reserve for conservation, Eleven Media news reported. According to Sein Tun, administrator of Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary the nature of biosphere reserve is to cooperate in solving livelihood issues of the locals while making conservation works. Businessmen, volunteers and local residents are needed to cooperate and support in conserving the Inle Lake.

The Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1985. It is known as Myanmar’s major tourist spots and considered as one of ASEAN heritages. Situated between Pinlaung and Pehkon Townships of Southern Shan State, Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is also one of the biggest wetland in Southeast Asia with an area of 247.435 square miles. Official statistics show that the sanctuary has 59 species of fishes, 3 species of turtles, 94 species of butterflies, 12 species of mammals, 25species of amphibians and 287 species of birds. Some of the contributory factors why in recent years the Inle Lake has gradually deteriorated is because of the over usage of insecticides and chemical fertilisers, the impact of climate change, the surface area of the lake on dry season and deforestation, the report said. more…

Myanmar Rises to the Challenge of Environmental Conservation

Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady River, January 2013. | photo: flickr/francisco anzola
Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady River, January 2013. | Photo: flickr/Francisco Anzola

President Thein Sein’s decision in September 2011 to suspend construction on the Myitsone Dam at the headwaters of the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State signaled the rise of a significant environmental movement in the country. Indeed, President Sein cited public opinion as a main factor in his decision. Over the past year, environmental groups have challenged a number of other development projects, including the Dawei Special Economic Zone and the Letpadaung copper mine near Monywa. Protection of the country’s rich biodiversity and relatively clean environment has rapidly emerged as a key national interest in the face of a potential surge in economic investment and development following recent economic and political reforms.

With the gradual development of a free press and expanded access to information, the country’s population has become increasingly aware of its unique biodiversity and valuable natural resources. The desire to protect these assets has become a sentiment dear to virtually all sectors of the population and is reflected in the policies and laws being considered by both the executive and legislative branches of the government. The new foreign investment law, for example, requires environmental impact assessments for all major development projects. Further, the parliament recently proposed the establishment of an Ayeyarwady River Commission to ensure the conservation of the country’s main water artery, whose sub-basins house a large percentage of the country’s biodiversity “hot spots.”

But this is only a start — recent measures being taken by the government to protect the environment are baby steps. more…

President Thein Sein, the first Leader of Myanmar to Visit Britain in more than 25 years

President Sein said in a statement released on his website on Sunday that he had disbanded a security force accused of rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State in the west of Myanmar, that saw a scene of deadly violence between Muslims and majority Buddhists in the past year.

photo: rohingyablogger.com
photo: rohingyablogger.com

Sein was due to talk trade, aid and democracy with Cameron and his ministers during a two-day visit at a time when Myanmar is opening up its oil, gas and telecoms sectors to foreign investors, with further liberalization likely.

Cameron was under pressure to confront Sein over the treatment of Myanmar’s Muslim minority, but faced a tricky balancing act since he has made it clear he wants to expand Britain’s trade links with emerging economies such as Myanmar.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron greets the President of Myanmar Thein Sein in Downing Street, central London July 15, 2013. photo: reuters/andrew winning
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron greets the President of Myanmar Thein Sein in Downing Street, central London July 15, 2013. photo: reuters/andrew winning

Sein, a former military commander, is trying to get the West to help Myanmar’s economy recover from decades of military dictatorship, Soviet-style planning and international sanctions. Western leaders have praised him for ending the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, releasing some political prisoners, and allowing the opposition to fight an election.

But they want him to further loosen the military’s grip on the mineralrich state formerly known as Burma before a 2015 presidential election which the British-educated Suu Kyi hopes to contest. Suu Kyi visited Britain last year.

About 30 activists from campaign group Avaaz protested outside the British parliament with a banner reading: “Cameron – Don’t let Myanmar become the next Rwanda”, a reference to the 1994 genocide when hundreds of thousands were killed.

Two activists wearing papier mache head moldings of Cameron and Sein hugged each other in front of dozens of stylized cardboard Muslim graves. “Cameron should never have invited Sein,” said Jamal Ahmed, General Secretary of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK. “Giving him the red carpet treatment knowing about the record level of human rights abuses is wrong.”

Before the talks, Human Rights Watch urged Cameron to press Sein on justice for crimes against humanity, to release remaining political prisoners and to end repressive laws.

At least 237 people have been killed in Myanmar in religious violence over the past year and about 150,000 people have been displaced. Most of the victims were Muslim and the deadliest incidents happened in Rakhine State, where about 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live, according to the United Nations. Cameron’s office said it would provide details of the talks later. A spokesman said he had
planned to raise human rights.“In all our relationships, nothing is ever off the table,” the spokesman said. “This will be an opportunity to discuss political and economic reform in Myanmar and, yes, as part of that human rights will be discussed.” more…

US-ASEAN Business Council Mission Meets Key Myanmar Leaders

The mission was organised by the US-Asean Business Council and led by a delegation of senior US business executives. They met with key leaders including President Thein Sein, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Thura U Shwe Mann, and Chair of the National League for Democracy and Member of Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi. The delegation was led by Mariano Vela, President of Unocal Myanmar Offshore and chair of the council’s Myanmar Committee, and Alexander Feldman, President of the USAsean Business Council.

“One year ago, the US-Asean Business Council led the first US business mission to Myanmar, two days after the suspension of sanctions. At that time, no US company had made a new investment or set up a new office,” said Alexander Feldman of the US-Asean Business Council. “As we conclude our second mission, many of our members, including Coca- Cola, GE, GM, Ford, Deloitte, ACE, KPMG, Cisco and others have made investments or opened distributorships and representative offices.

“In our discussion with the Myanmar government, leaders outlined a series of priorities to address, including availability of electricity, physical infrastructure, development of the agricultural sector, access to telecommunications including the internet, and skills development and education,” added Feldman. more…

Government Plans Legal Revamp to tap US Market

Fish-processing plants that can meet international health and safety standards, like the one above, are expected to benefit from Myanmar’s inclusion in the US’s GSP program. | photo: mmtimes.com
Fish-processing plants that can meet international health and safety standards, like the one above, are expected to benefit from Myanmar’s inclusion in the US’s GSP program. | Photo: mmtimes.com

The government will beef up legal protection of labour rights and intellectual property to ensure exports from Myanmar are eligible for duty-free access to the US market by the end of this year, officials at the Ministry of Commerce said.

Although they are confident Myanmar will be reinstated in Washington’s generalised system of preferences (GSP) – which grants duty-free access to thousands of imported goods from developing countries – they said that questions about labour rights and protection of intellectual property had been raised again on June 4 at a public hearing in Washington on Myanmar’s inclusion in the GSP.

The officials stressed, however, that new legislation establishing a minimum wage and standards for occupational health and safety will be debated at the next session of parliament, as will new copyright legislation

Pyithu Hluttaw representative U Aye Mauk said draft legislation for an intellectual property law were to be submitted to the hluttaw when it reconvened on June 25. U Aye Mauk, who is also secretary of the lower house’s planning and financial development committee, said he hopes the legislation will be enacted within two months. The committee has received advice from international bodies, including NGOs, to draft the legislation, he added.

The World Intellectual Property Organization has been meeting with officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology to discuss the legislation, a WIPO regional program officer said.

U Ye Min Than said five officials drafting the legislation discussed it with WIPO staff at its headquarters in Geneva in early March. more…

India to Provide $150 million to set up SEZ in Myanmar

India has offered $150 million of credit for project exports to set up a SEZ in Myanmar and has expressed hope that the neighbouring country would permit Indian banks to set up branches there.

The issues came up for discussion during the three-day visit of Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon.

For the SEZ project, Myanmar government will provide suitable land for the purpose. “India has offered $150 million of credit for project exports for establishing a SEZ at Sittwe in Myanmar,” an official statement said. Sharma called for greater cooperation in banking sector and appreciated the Myanmar government’s approval to allow Indian banks like United Bank of India to set up a representative office in the neighbouring country.

“He expressed hope that the two public sector banks viz., Bank of India and State Bank of India, who have also expressed interest, would also be permitted to operate in Myanmar,” the statement said. The Commerce Minister stressed the need for permission to open full-fledged banking services.

Even setting up a joint venture state-owned bank with India and Myanmar sharing equity would strengthen ties in banking and commerce between the countries. Besides, the minister discussed ways to increase cooperation in energy sector. more…

Myanmar’s Role in Aiding Southeast Asian Unity

US Secretary of State John Kerry, third from left, participates in a chain handshake during a group photo of foreign ministers during the ASEAN security meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Tuesday, July 2. photo : jacquelyn martin/ap
US Secretary of State John Kerry, third from left, participates in a chain handshake during a group photo of foreign ministers during the ASEAN security meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Tuesday, July 2. | Photo : Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Taking their cue in part from regional examples of cooperation such as the European Union, and buoyed by the recent economic opening of Myanmar, the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plan to form a Southeast Asian economic community by the end of 2015.

An economic community would cut trade costs and make it easier to do business across Southeast Asia – adding to the region’s alreadyburgeoning appeal to outside investors, including companies from the United States.

But, despite the much anticipated opening of Myanmar and flurries of pro-integration rhetoric at events such as the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Brunei that US Secretary of State John Kerry attended this week, even a small-scale Southeast Asian version of the EU looks increasingly unlikely to happen by the due date. In Brunei, disagreements over who is at fault for a throat-clogging haze blanketing parts of Malaysia and Singapore, as well as saberrattling over the disputed South China Sea, overshadowed economic integration discussions and highlighted the sometimes-fractious nature of relations between ASEAN member-states.

Despite more than four decades of cooperation – ASEAN was set up in 1967 – the region’s countries are suspicious of any development that appears to trump national sovereignty, says Professor Jorn Dosch of the CIMB ASEAN Research Institute (CARI), a think tank backed by Malaysia’s CIMB Bank.

Myanmar – once the subject of many disagreements among ASEAN members – will now be a key driver of the proposed economic community. more…

Thai-Myanmar Border-Crossings Open to Tourists

Three Myanmar-Thai border checkpoints will be open to Thai nationals and other foreign visitors for entry and exit as of August, aimed at providing better service to the visitors holding passport and Myanmar entry visa, official media reported Monday.

The three gates are designated as Tachilek-Mae Sai, Myawaddy- Mae Sot, and Kawthaung- Ranong under a Myanmar-Thai Border Crossing Agreement, said the New Light of Myanmar.