BUSINESS (May 2010)
covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, November 15, 2018

BUSINESS (May 2010)



Illegal Logging Fells 14 percent of Burma’s Forests

Trucks carrying logs line up at customs in Kachin State at the Sino-Burmese border in 2006. (Photo AFP)
Illegal logging has led to a massive 14 percent reduction in Burma’s forests over the last three decades, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The depletion has left only 40 percent of the country’s land area covered in forests, compared to 60 percent in 1975. The rate of forest loss has accelerated over the last decade, with as much as 466,000 hectares disappearing over the last five years, making it one of the world’s four worst countries for deforestation, says the UN. Illegal logging, with much of the timber going to China, has continued even though Burma has some of the world’s largest reserves of “protected” forest—more than 155,000 square kilometers.

Burma Joins Currency Swap Group

Burma will become a member of a US $120-billion fund recently established between 13 Asian countries intended to prevent a future regional financial crisis. The fund is designed to back one or more countries in the form of currency swap support in the event of a crisis, enabling a country in trouble to exchange local currency for US dollars, with a payback period of up to two years. It involves the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plus China, Japan and South Korea. On paper, Burma has contributed the equivalent of $60 million under the so-called Chiang Mai Initiative, which came into force at the end of March. Only two other countries have pledged less: Brunei and Laos. Japan and China will provide $38 billion each, and South Korea almost $20 billion. The Asean countries have collectively pledged $24 billion. 

Belarus Bids to Bypass Arms Boycott

The East European country of Belarus is bidding to sell military weapons to Burma following a week-long visit by a high-ranking delegation. A Belarusian state military and technical committee met Burmese army representatives to discuss military and technical cooperation. It was the second meeting between the two countries—a Burmese delegation visited Belarus last June. Although foreign currency revenues from contracts with Burma remain insignificant, there are prospects for cooperation in the military and technical sphere, a Belarus official told the Belapan news agency. Belarus is on a United States restricted list because of its arms sales to unstable countries, such as North Korea and Sudan.

Thais Fund Road to South Burma for Trade Link

Thailand will spend US $11 million to expand overland and port trade links into southern Burma. The Thai government, via the commerce ministry, will use the funds to build a road linking the Thai town of Kanchanaburi with the Burmese port of Tavoy, and to create a new permanent border crossing for trade farther south near Prachuap Khiri Khan. The Thai ministry said the agreement was made on the sidelines of the Mekong River Commission conference. The aim of the two links is to cut the cost and time of transporting farm and sea produce from Burma to Thailand. Bangkok is about 300 kilometers from Tavoy in a direct line via Kanchanaburi. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

US May Require Energy Companies to Disclose Payments

Landmark legislation currently before the US Congress would force all oil, gas and mining companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose information about payments made to foreign governments, including Burma. The pending US legislation will not apply retrospectively, so companies will only have to disclose payments going forward, but an initiative launched on April 27 in Bangkok called on Total, Chevron and Thailand’s PTTEP —three companies involved in the Yadana gas project and pipeline in Burma—to reveal payments made to the Burmese military regime over the 18 years since Total signed a production sharing contract with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. Separately, Chevron shareholders will vote next month on a proposal that would require the company to disclose payments to foreign governments, including Burma.

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