covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, November 13, 2018




Electricity Cut to Rangoon Businesses

Electricity for businesses in Rangoon was cut off in mid-May by the state-owned Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise, which is responsible for electrical generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Burma.

A sidewalk vendor in Rangoon uses a battery-powered light to show his wares.
Electricity Cut to Rangoon BusinessesThe cutoff affected private hospitals, shopping centers, small businesses and industry zones, most of which have generators as a back-up electricity supply. The water supply of the Lawpita hydroelectric plant, located 210 miles (350 kilometers) north of Rangoon, one of the main sources of electricity for the former capital, depends on Inle Lake in Shan State. High temperatures this year caused the lake’s water level to sink to a 50-year low, according to Weekly Eleven, a Rangoon-based journal.

Crony Capitalism Blamed for Power Woes

The Burmese junta’s habit of awarding lucrative contracts to regime-connected companies has been blamed for the ongoing failure of efforts to improve Rangoon’s access to electricity. Officials said that a plan to build a pipeline from the Gulf of Martaban to Burma’s former capital was stalled due to quality-control issues. The pipeline project, worth an estimated US $500 million, is being carried out by IGE Co Ltd, run by Nay Aung and Pyi Aung, sons of Minister of Industry 1 Aung Thaung. IGE is a major supplier of substation and transmission line materials, oil and gas and CNG filling stations. With an election coming later this year, the regime had promised to increase Rangoon’s power supply by the end of April. Minister of Energy Lun Thi pushed IGE to conclude the pipeline project one month ahead of its original deadline. Now accused of shoddy quality control in its work on the project, IGE has blamed Lun Thi for the problems it faces.

Thai Unrest to Crimp Economy

The Thai government’s National Economic and Social Development Board predicted that political instability at home and risks to the global economy from Europe’s debt crisis would adversely affect the country’s economic growth. The agency said that domestic unrest would hit tourism, slow household spending and private investment and cause delays in government spending. Bangkok regained a semblance of normality after a violent army crackdown in May cleared the city’s commercial district of thousands of Redshirt protesters, who were accused of burning nearly 40 buildings in the commerical district, including the stock exchange and the city’s largest shopping mall. The crackdown brought the death toll in Bangkok to 88 with nearly 2,000 injured during two months of protests.

Gold Selling Well in Burma

The crisis surrounding the common European currency, the Euro, has pushed the price of gold to record highs. With world market prices at an all-time high, Chinese and Thai gold traders have rushed to Burma, where the precious metal is cheaper than in neighboring countries. According to Burmese dealers, gold is relatively cheap in the country because exchange rates favor foreign buyers. Another factor, they said, is government pressure to keep prices under control. Traders have been warned to limit price increases, but they say this is difficult to do because the rapid rise is driven by international demand.

Sand for Singapore Devastates Cambodian Coast

Cambodia is eroding its coast by dredging vast quantities of sand to sell to Singapore for expansion projects, with multimillion-dollar profits going to tycoons close to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the London-based environmental watchdog Global Witness. Operations from just one Cambodian province were estimated to be worth US $248 million annually in retail value in Singapore, the group said. Cambodian law bans only river sand from export, but Global Witness said its investigators found that both sea and river sand have been exported since the law was passed. The group also criticized Singapore for the practice, pointing out that the wealthy island city-state “presents itself as a regional leader on environmental issues.”

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