By WILLIAM BOOT
India’s Hydro-Electric Power Push in Burma to Cost US$5 Billion
India’s state hydroelectric firm NHPC says it is ready to invest about US$5 billion in two river hydroelectric projects in western Burma.
That’s how much it will cost to develop hydro dams at Tamanthi and Shwezaye in the Chindwin River basin, said a report in India’s Hindu News newspaper, quoting senior company executives.
The two projects would deliver an electricity generating capacity of 1,800 megawatts. That’s more than Burma’s current meager national capacity, but most if not all of the power would be transmitted into equally energy starved northeast India.
“There is great potential in Myanmar and the government there is very keen that we [NHPC] start work,” the Hindu News quotes NHPC Managing Director S.K. Garg.
So far, the two governments have signed an only memorandum of understanding the developments.
The US$5 billion investment estimate by Garg includes building transmission power lines to transmit the hydro electricity from northwest Sagaing Division in India.
The human rights NGO Burma Rivers Network has estimated that at least 30,000 people would be forced to move to make way for the two dams.
Mae Sot Workers Protest Poor Pay, Conditions at Thai Factory
Burmese workers employed at a Thai-owned clothes factory have protested about poor pay and living conditions in a new confrontation in the border town of Mae Sot.
The workers, who chose not be identified for fear of reprisals, said they were not paid enough to live on properly and the working and live-in conditions flouted Thailand’s labor laws.
The complaint, which was delivered to a government labor department office in the town, was reported by the independent Burmese information agency, Democratic Voice of Burma.
Mae Sot District, which lies across from Myawaddy on the Burmese side, has scores of factories that make Western-brand garments where owners habitually ignore Thailand’s minimum wage law.
The town is a major commercial conduit between the two countries and is sometimes also a flashpoint of migrant protests.
Earlier this year, Thai commercial drivers blocked the border bridge crossing for two days to protest Burmese taxis crossing to the Thai side and competing for transportation business.
Third Try at Asean Regional Summit in Thailand?
The Thai government will make a third attempt to convene an economic summit involving Asean countries and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
It wants to restage the meeting in June after a previous meeting was abandoned in disarray in April when anti-government demonstrators forced government leaders—including the Chinese prime minister, Japanese prime minister and South Korean president—to flee their seaside gathering in Pattaya.
That meeting was being held after the originally scheduled December summit was postponed by other demonstrators who blocked Bangkok’s airports.
Now, the government is asking leaders if they will return to Thailand and reconvene their talks in Phuket on June 13-14.
The Pattaya summit had aimed to discuss regional economic recovery plans, and hear proposals for financial stimulus aid by China and Japan.
Burma to Host Asean Business Forum
A warning hangs over an Asean-led business forum to be held in Burma.
British Trade Minister Gareth Thomas says the British government will campaign to make sure that Burma cannot benefit from a European Union-Asean free trade agreement.
“This is an issue to which the UK attaches great importance,” Thomas said in a statement.
The two sides are engaged in FTA negotiations, but Burma is a sticking point.
Thomas’s warning comes as the Burmese military government prepares to host the East Asia Business Council on June 22-24.
The council groups the 10-country Asean with China, Japan and South Korea.
It will be the first time Burma has hosted the council, which it joined as an active member two years ago.
Indian Weapons Smuggled Out of Burma in Black Market
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on buying black market weapons in Burma for militant rebels in northeast India, according to reports.
The allegation was made by police in Shillong, the capital of the small mountain state of Meghalaya.
Two members of an outlawed separatist group were arrested with the equivalent of 100,000 US dollars which was to be spent buying arms in Burma, alleged Shillong Police Chief Claudia Lyngwa in a statement to Indian newspapers.
Investigations said the group, known as Black Widow, “frequently” sends agents into Burma to procure weapons, said Lyngwa.
The group is blamed for attacking a train in April, killing a guard and wounding 15 passengers.
India has been accused of helping maintain the military regime in Burma by supplying it with weapons and related equipment—some of which are reportedly sold back to northeast India’s many rebel groups.