Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dawei helps Thailand become auto hub

The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has thrown its full support behind a rail network linking Laem Chabang with Dawei on Myanmar's eastern coast.

The TDRI says the route will support Thailand's ambition of becoming the region's automotive and logistics hub.

However, Narong Pomlaktong, the TDRI's research director of transport and logistics, said the 427-kilometre route should be extended by another 877 km to connect with Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

"With an [integrated] steel mill set up in Dawei, Thailand will be able to ship steel from Myanmar to support automotive plants here," said Dr Narong.

Myanmar's Malamang, which is across from Tak province's

Phop Phra district, is a source of iron ore and is just 30 km away from Dawei.

"While a steel smelting plant has little chance of being developed in Thailand due to strong opposition from environmentalists, such a facility in Dawei will be the most feasible option to serve the country's goal of becoming the Detroit of Asia," he said.

Japan's government and its private sector have strongly supported development in Dawei as they look to relocate heavy industries away from Japan.

At a TDRI seminar, Dr Narong said the eastern route of the Singapore Kunming Rail Link (SKRL), which runs to China through Malaysia over 4,599 km, will link Thailand and Myanmar.

"The eastern route has become more feasible theses days as Myanmar opens up," said Dr Narong.

The rail link is estimated to cost about 100 million baht per km. Nearly 90 billion baht will be needed to build tracks to Dawei and Ho Chi Minh, which Dr Narong said is not expensive given the fact that it is international route.

The deep-sea port in Dawei will reduce the time taken for shipments to get to Europe to six days, down from 16 days.

The Dawei port is expected to accommodate 14 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) a year by 2037, compared to the 7.7 million TEU capacity of the second-phase expansion at Laem Chabang port.

However, security and labour issues must be taken into account because the route will encourage existing Myanmar migrants working in Thailand to return home, said the TDRI.

It said in the long run, problems related to migrant workers and infrastructure will need to be addressed.

Amarit Pansiri, managing director of Excel Transport Int'l Co, warned Myanmar's new airport in Nay Pyi Taw will provide competition for Suvarnabhumi airport as the region's air hub.

The China-funded airport, which has 54 gates, will be a new rival for Suvarnabhumi, he said.

"Myanmar will shortly come up with policies to promote air transport that will draw direct investment," he said.

Myanmar is also developing Yangon new town, a 72-km-wide and 72-km-long area around the former capital intended to attract industries.