Five countries at the Fourth Acmecs Summit in Phnom Penh yesterday agreed to support the development of the South-South Economic Corridor that will link the proposed deep-sea port in the south of Burma to the south of Thailand and onwards to Malaysia as a new trade lane in the region.
“It was announced at the meeting as a dialogue that five members have supported the deep sea port in the south of Burma,” Tanit Sorat, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, and head of its Logistics Industry Club, told The Nation yesterday.
He is one of the Thai delegates at the Acmecs Summit. Acmecs or the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy is a cooperation framework covering Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.
TAVOY DEEP-SEA PORT
Tanit said there was no mention of the name of the deep-sea port but it was acknowledged as the Tavoy deep-sea port project.
The South-South Economic Corridor would also complement the Bt200-billion railroad project with proposed financing by China from Nong Khai in the northeast of Thailand, through Bangkok and the south of Thailand to Padang Besar in Malaysia. It would be an extension of the railroad to be built in Laos to connect the south of China.
This would be a new gateway following the East-West Economic Corridor, linking Burma to Vietnam via Thailand and Laos, and the North-South Economic Corridor, connecting Kunming in the south of China to the south of Thailand.
Italian-Thai Development, Thailand's largest construction company, on November 2 signed the framework agreement with the Burmese Port Authority to develop the Tavoy Deep Sea Port, industrial estate and road link to Thailand. The total project value is US$8.6 billion, or about Bt260 billion.
The project will be located in Tavoy, about 160 kilometres west of Kanchanaburi or 300 kilometres west of Bangkok. The deep-sea port will be 10 times larger than Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri, which can handle up to 7.5 million 20-feet containers a year.
The contractor aims for the project to become a logistics and trading hub for the region that links Southeast Asia and the South China Sea via the Andaman Sea, to the India Ocean.
A financial industry source said Bangkok Bank is now interested in providing loans to the Tavoy project. Some firms in Taiwan, Japan and China are also keen on participating in the development.
However, many industry watchers are sceptical about the project’s massive scale.
ITD’s stock yesterday rose by 4.6 per cent or 22 satang to close at Bt5 on turnover of Bt1.32 billion.
Flight from the junta
Refugees tell of life in the camps on the Burmese border and the trauma in their troubled homeland
A new book has given voice to the voiceless ��" and filled a huge void in Thailand’s recent history.
“Nine Thousand Nights” tells some of the remarkable stories of refugees living along the Burma border. Tens of thousands of Karen and other persecuted ethnic minorities have lived in camps from Kanchanaburi and Tak all the way north to Mae Hong Son for more than a quarter of a century.
The plight of those who have fled decades of abuse and persecution in the east and north of Burma is arguably Southeast Asia’s greatest humanitarian crisis. Yet it is also one of the most under-reported, with the camps off limits to all news media.
The last major fighting was in the mid-’90s, but low-level civil strife has dragged on for so long that the latest casualties, guerrilla attacks and village slayings in Karen and Shan States rarely make headlines.
That partially explains the importance of this book, published by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium ��" a non-government group that raises millions of US dollars every year for food and supplies for 150,000 refugees in the nine camps along the border.
“Nine Thousand Nights” was conceived as a “scrapbook” of notes, photos and artwork by refugees and the people that care for them. Sandy Barron, an Irish former Nation sub-editor, had the difficult task of sifting through hundreds of moving letters written by the refugees and trying to do them justice in print.
The end result is heartbreaking, full of insight into what they’ve endured, both before and since fleeing to Thailand. The subject matter may be bleak, but it’s also a remarkable testament to the human spirit.
“Night Thousand Nights” was launched last month at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok with TBBC executives Jack Dunford and Sally Thompson on hand.
Both have been honoured as Members of the British Empire. Dunford received his from Queen Elizabeth in 2000, and Prince Charles presented Thompson with her medal this past July for her 19 years’ work on behalf of the refugees.
Dunford admitted to feelings of “despair balanced with hope” as he wondered how brutal military attacks on innocent villages “could happen for decades, with impunity ��" and how many more years could this go on for?”
Mubi, a Kayan (Karenni) refugee, spoke at the book launch of a childhood on the run, sleeping outside her houses in fear of Burmese soldiers. “My house was burned down four times,” she said. “Life wasn’t really safe for us. I really wanted to go to school ��" I wanted an education.”
Her family ended up in Camp 2 near Mae Hong Son in 1995 and Mubi got the education she wanted. She’s had the opportunity to live outside the camp, but with limited rights ��" needing permission to travel outside Mae Hong Son was “humiliating”, she said, “because I have no country of my own”.
Barron said the more than 200 letters from the camps that form the backbone of the book were “incredibly enlightening” and her editing task was “a privilege and a responsibility”.
The insights and information provided was different from what journalists usually glean, Barron noted. “They were saying what they wanted to say.”
One of the refugees insisted that it’s impossible for outsiders to understand what their lives are like. As Barron wrote: “To be a refugee is to have lost everything you once held dear.”
She was shocked how many residents in the camps wrote in about hunger when in Burma, and their struggle with being a refugee, “living a life of receiving when their culture is all about giving”.
She read passages from the book:
“You may be in Thailand, but you are close to home as the birds fly. Sometimes the physical distance between a refugee and the home she hasn’t seen for 20 years is a mere few kilometres … It is perhaps the most difficult contradiction of all in the camps. The longing for home doesn’t go away. It has to be constantly contained.
“Home means more than simply the physical place: it stands for memories of freedom, peace, space, plentiful food, and a way of life with old traditions that were sustaining and made sense.”
“The refugees,” Barron said, “describe impossible, real, desperately traumatic events that are difficult for outsiders to take in. They tell stories with a quiet power and a level of detail that demands to be listened to and that implicitly insists on questions: Where is the justice?”
Thompson shared some happier moments in the camps, including the refugees’ recipes for cooking various animals and an infant whose name translated as “bite off the umbilical cord” ��" his mother had given birth alone while hiding in the jungle.
Dunford said he’s mystified at the lack of international empathy about what’s happening in Karen State.
“Somehow there’s a disconnect between what happens in these remote areas and the Saffron Revolution,” he said, referring to the 2007 uprising led by monks in Rangoon.
“It gripped the entire world’s attention,” Dunford said, but the Burmese army’s violence “is happening every day in the border area” and goes almost wholly ignored.
-“Nine Thousand Nights” is published by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium.
- It’s available at Asia Books and the TBBC office for Bt750.
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