New Investment Law to be announced in March
Police seize 4.6 methamphetamine tablets from monastery
Kirin to buy 51% of Mandalay Brewery
The price of gold in Myanmar reached a record high of 902,500 kyats per tical—a traditional Burmese measurement of weight equal to 16.33 grams
Initiated by legal firm VDB Loi, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) has implemented a transfer of shares in a company wholly owned by Myanmar citizens and registered as a Myanmar Company to a foreigner, without incorporating a new legal entity.
Peace Talk Talks - Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN) will meet in Naypyidaw. The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—comprised of non-signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA)—said that the agenda will include a discussion of the current political deadlock as well as the nine UNFC demands to be met before the alliance will sign the NCA. The UNFC’s delegation will then meet with the Peace Commission to discuss the details of the meeting. While the UNFC has been trying to meet the Suu Kyi to talk about policies regarding all-inclusivity, active ethnic armed organizations based in the northeast said in a recent statement that Maynmar needed “a new ceasefire agreement to replace the NCA,” which reflects the United Wa State Army (UWSA) chairman Bao Youxiang’s speech at an ethnic summit. The statement said participants agreed that the Wa group would lead the undertaking of a political negotiation team, in order to work with the government without signing the NCA. Two UNFC members groups—the chair of the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North—attended the third ethnic armed group summit host by the UWSA in Panghsang. However, Khu Oo Reh, the secretary of the UNFC, said the statement from the third Panghsang summit does not reflect the UNFC’s views.
On U Ko Ni’s Assassination - Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence on the assassination of NLD party legal advisor U Ko Ni, calling him a “comrade” of hers and said that losing him was a “deep loss” for the party. The prominent Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni was shot dead in broad daylight by a gunman on Jan. 29 outside Yangon International Airport. Taxi driver U Nay Win was also fatally shot as he tried to apprehend the assassin. U Ko Ni was an expert on Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution, which he referred to as undemocratic, and was very critical of the country’s military. Aung San Suu Kyi made a rare public appearance at the memorial service for U Ko Ni and U Nay Win, organized by the NLD in Yangon. “Losing someone like U Ko Ni is such a deep loss for the NLD,” she said. “The fact that he worked together with the party for many years through his belief is also something that our party is proud of.” “I respect and value him a lot,” she added. She went on to say that U Ko Ni and the taxi driver U Nay Win had the same fundamental attitude and beliefs despite their different backgrounds, referring to the way they refused to accept an injustice. She also urged the packed hall of Yangon’s Royal Rose Restaurant to always remember the contributions the two “martyrs” made to the party and to the country. Such a sense of responsibility by a normal citizen is more valuable than that of a government official, she said. “The attitude that Nay Win had is a good example for our citizens.” she said.
Private Meeting - Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing held a private meeting in Naypyitaw. Some senior officials from both sides also attended, but state-run media made no mention of the summit. Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing reportedly asked Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD government to convene a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) as soon as possible. No NDSC meetings have taken place since the NLD government took office one year ago. The 11-member NDSC was created during former President U Thein Sein’s administration and enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. The NDSC is empowered to formulate policy regarding certain military and security issues, including the right to petition the President to declare a nationwide state of emergency. The council members include the president, two vice presidents, speakers of the upper and lower houses, the army’s commander-in-chief, the deputy commander-in-chief, the foreign minister, and the ministers for defense, home affairs, and border affairs. The military controls a 6-5 majority in the council. In January, Aung San Suu Kyi appointed Thaung Tun, a veteran diplomat, as national security advisor. The position is equivalent to a minister-level position. The appointment did not go down well with the top brass of the armed forces, and it was seen as an attempt by the NLD government to circumvent the supreme council. Following the appointment, former information minister Ye Htut wrote an article in Singapore’s Today Online. In the article he said, “Unfortunately, Mr. Thaung Tun’s appointment puts him on a collision course with the all-powerful military.” He continued, “By tradition, internal security has been the sole domain of the Myanmar military, with the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces serving as the principal advisor to the government on these issues. There are concerns that this could point to a looming clash between military leaders and Ms. Suu Kyi.” If the NDSC were to convene now, the NLD government would control only five of the 11 key positions. These include President Htin Kyaw, Vice President Henry Van Thio, and the house speakers Win Myint and Mahn Win Khaing Than. Aung San Suu Kyi also gets a seat on the NDSC in her capacity as foreign minister. The former ruling party, the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), recently called on the government to convene an NDSC meeting to discuss security and rule-of-law issues that are now facing the country. The USDP has raised questions about accepting Rohingya refugees back into the country, about the formation of the Arakan State Advisory Commission, and about the recent national security advisor appointment. It says that people’s socio-economic security and state security are weakening. The USDP and its allies released a joint statement that said the current government has ignored parliamentary discussions, political parties’ concerns, and good-faith suggestions about the formation of the Kofi Annan-led Arakan State Advisory Commission. “The government failed to consult the NDSC while making an important decision on the formation of the commission,” they said. The recent national security advisor appointment was made by the Union government without consultation as well, they said.
Misinformation Accusations - Government and Tatmadaw-controlled media organizations have misinformed the public about the Myanmar Army’s military offensives, alleged Gen Gun Maw, vice chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Gen Gun Maw said that state-run media have falsely persuaded the public that Myanmar Army attacks against ethnic armed groups are related to those groups not signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). “The Myanmar Army says some groups need to sign [the NCA], and some don’t need to,” he said. “But at the same time, they say the reason they are fighting with some groups is because those groups haven’t signed. Actually, all media owned by the government and the Tatmadaw are telling the public that they are in a war against us because we won’t sign the NCA. This is a false narrative; it is the wrong path.” “The Tatmadaw’s offensives against the KIA have been continuous almost every day. They are making ‘total war,’ using all of their manpower and technology except for navy forces,” Gen Gun Maw said during an interview in late January. On Monday, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) sources reported that the Myanmar Army was deploying additional soldiers to Hpakant and Putao townships in northern Kachin State. The Myanmar Army was also blocking roads in Waingmaw Township, preventing food supplies from reaching camps of internally displaced persons, and causing food shortages. The KIA lost four strategic military outposts in Waingmaw Township in December and January, during heavy fighting with the Myanmar Army. Continued offensives by the Myanmar Army will lead to a “loss of trust” and detract from peace negotiations, Gen Gun Maw said. The KIO vice chairman expressed frustration that some groups were invited to engage in political dialogue with the government, but others were not. Gen Gun Maw reiterated that the KIO and Union government must be able to discuss how to build the Union together. He pushed for the 1947 Panglong promises to be discussed at the Union Peace Conference. Otherwise, he said, the term “Panglong” should be deleted from the conference’s title. At the 70th Union Day celebration, Aung San Suu Kyi urged the remaining NCA non-signatories to sign the agreement and join the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. But some of the ethnic armed groups have said they will only join the peace conference when they are treated as equals. Gen Gun Maw said the KIO requested “genuine and equal” political dialogue when the NCA was being drafted in 2013-15. “We requested, if we signed the NCA, that we would be included in a joint leadership committee. But our request was not allowed. We requested for all groups to be allowed to sign the NCA, and that was not allowed either,” said Gen Gun Maw. He said the Tatmadaw was reluctant to allow the actively fighting ethnic armed groups to be included in the peace process. The Myanmar Army created different categories for ethnic groups, and it allowed some of the smaller groups—such as the Lahu Democratic Union, the Wa National Organization, and the Arakan National Council, which has no armed forces—to take part in the political dialogue without having signed the NCA. After 17 years of ceasefire, war resumed in June 2011 between the KIA and the Tatmadaw, and more than 100,000 local civilians have been displaced by the renewed conflict. They are in need of food and shelter, particularly during this season of cold weather. Nearly half live in KIA-controlled territory and face regular threats to their lives as they come under intentional or unintentional attacks from the Myanmar Army. Gen Gun Maw urged his people “to understand and to bear the situation” while the KIO works to solve the conflict through political effort.
Sign Of The Times - The Mon State Government will rename a new bridge across the Salween River in Mon State Yamanya Bridge amid “strong opposition” from locals over the government’s decision to name it after Myanmar’s independence hero Bogyoke Aung San, according to the ethnic affairs minister Nai Thet Lwin. “As locals disagree, the name of the bridge was changed to ‘Yamanya’ by the Mon State government,” Union minister for ethnic affairs Nai Thet Lwin said. He added that locals would accept the new name of the bridge linking Moulmein and Chaungzon townships as ‘Yamanya’, which means Mon State in Mon language. Construction of the two-lane, 5,200-foot structure will be completed in March, and has cost an estimated 60 billion kyats (US$44 million). The official opening of the bridge was cancelled because of locals’ opposition regarding the name change. The bridge’s proposed name came to light last week when the Ministry of Construction sent a letter to Aung Naing Oo, deputy speaker of the Mon State parliament, announcing a celebratory opening ceremony for it on Feb. 13. Locals were outraged by the decision, preferring a name celebrating ethnic Mon heritage. “The main disagreement from our ethnic people was, that Gen Aung San has no relation to this bridge, and not even any relation to this area,” deputy speaker of the Mon State parliament Aung Naing Oo said. He accused the NLD of trying to “take political advantage” by invoking Aung San’s name, without considering the views of ethnic minorities. The Mon National Party also issued a statement requesting that the state government designate a name that does not harm ethnic unity, peace and stability in the region, and could contribute to national reconciliation in the country.
FDI On Target - With two months remaining this fiscal year, the volume of foreign direct investment in Myanmar has nearly reached the target of US$6 billion set by the Myanmar Investment Commission. Total foreign investment in Myanmar reached $5.8 billion during the period between April 1, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017. The commission approved several new investment proposals in January which had previously been held on a waiting list. The current fiscal year ends on March 31, making it likely that the commission will surpass its annual goal of $6 billion in foreign direct investment. “This year, the transport and communications sectors topped the list, more investors went there,” said Than Aung Kyaw, deputy director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA). According to the DICA figures, investment into the transport and telecom sectors totaled $3 billion during the first 10 months of the 2016-17 fiscal year. The manufacturing sector received another $1 billion, real estate took in $747 million, and the energy sector was targeted with $612 million in foreign investment. Singapore is the top investor in Myanmar development projects, having invested $3.38 billion during the current fiscal year. Vietnam is second with $1.3 billion in investment, and China is third at $462 million. In January, a joint telecom venture involving Vietnam’s Viettel was awarded Myanmar’s fourth telecom license. That project pushed up the investment figures in Myanmar’s communications sector. “Now we need heavy industry to invest here, but so far only small industries are coming. That’s why foreign investment remains low,” said Dr. Maung Maung Lay, vice chairman of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Overall foreign direct investment was expected to decline during the 2016-17 fiscal year, the first year under the NLD government. Investors had questions about stability during the transition from military to civilian rule. The existing lack of infrastructure in Myanmar also posed serious barriers to foreign investors. “We are now worrying about power supplies in the summer. This is something that happens every summer. Why will foreign investors come here when they could go to another country that is able to offer better infrastructure?” said Myat Thin Aung, chairman of Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone.
New Business Data - A wealth of new data about Myanmar’s business sector was made available this week with the publication of the Myanmar Business Survey. The report produced by the Central Statistics Office and the United Nations Development Program sheds light on the characteristics of the private sector in Myanmar and on constraints faced by businesses. Almost 15,000 businesses across the country were surveyed in 2015, making the report the most comprehensive survey of private businesses to date. There is little diversification still in Myanmar’s private sector, the report shows. In the manufacturing sector, the vast majority of businesses produce food products, beverages and tobacco products. In the services arena, more than half of businesses are similarly engaged in food and beverage activities. The economy is dominated by businesses with fewer than 10 workers. The survey also shows that food and beverage services sector has the lowest salaries and the highest amount of hours worked. Jobs in professional, scientific and technical activities earn the highest salaries. Labour productivity remains low in Myanmar compared to other Asian countries, the survey says, with the highest per worker value found in the trade sector, followed by manufacturing. The report said that it was hoped that the data would enhance knowledge of Myanmar’s private business sector and its contribution to economic growth and development. The report could also help with the design of evidence-based policies for improved private sector development, it said.
Thilawa Phase Two - Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) management committee members said they expect to complete the 250-acre second phase of the project in mid-2018, during a commencement ceremony at the SEZ’s new Zone B recently. The project is a joint venture between Myanmar and Japan; construction work on it began in late 2013. Both governments hold a 10 percent share and nine domestic firms integrated into Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings (MTSH) control 41 percent, and a Japanese private-sector consortium owns 39 percent. Union Minister Than Myint of the Ministry of Commerce said, “Our country is trying to develop Thilawa, Kyaukphyu and Dawei SEZ projects. Among them, Thilawa SEZ project is one of the most successful zones.” The committee designated two phases for the implementation of the Thilawa SEZ and gave an incentive to foreign investors of seven years free from tax for those who would export products abroad. A tax break of five years was given to those who would export products domestically. In 2014, 78 firms from 15 countries came to Myanmar to set up factories in Thilawa. Currently 24 factories, including domestically run ones, are operating there and some foreign companies regularly export products abroad. Total investment in the Thilawa SEZ has already reached more than US$1 billion, said Set Aung, Chairman of Thilawa SEZ’s management committee. Factories producing garments, construction sector-related materials, electronic products, steel materials and cement, motor vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are located in the SEZ’s Zone A. The investors are from Japan, Singapore, China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Sweden and the US. Set Aung said that within 18 months, the construction of factories had been 96 percent completed, and that the government had provided 85 percent of the jobs for Thilawa residents in Zone A, but he did not elaborate a total number of labourers. He estimated that Zone B implementation could take at least 18 months as well. “Many international investors already contacted us about making investments here. But the investors could build factories after Zone B’s construction is complete,” said Set Aung, who said he believes that Zone B could offer more than 400,000 jobs to locals. For the second phase of Zone B, the authorities relocated three villages. The government and investors compensated villagers with a total of 27 million kyats for housing and land and 25 million kyats for farmland. Some residents opted for new homes rather than cash. As the farmers gave up their land to investors, some were left without farmland on which to cultivate vegetables and headed to neighbouring townships in search of new jobs. Set Aung highlighted how delivering training to the local community to build their capacity and then provide them with jobs in the SEZ was a “high-priority.” “I don’t really want to be in a situation where we have the SEZs around the corner, but the local community members are without jobs,” he said.
Infrastructure, Culture and Tourism
Mrauk-U Airport Needs More Funds - The Arakan State government has invited private developers to speed up the construction of a new airport at the ancient city of Mrauk-U in northern Arakan State, according to a regional minister. A local construction company, Su Htoo San, began to lay foundations on the project site in 2015. However, the state government planned to spend only 2 billion kyats per year for the project, at which rate the airport would have taken 13 years to complete. In 2016, the Union government cut funding for the Mrauk-U airport to spend money elsewhere and the Arakan State government was unable to step in—construction was suspended. The state government hopes that private investment will speed up construction and plans to offer a deal to private investors under a build-operate-transfer agreement, according to Aung Kyaw Zan, the regional transport minister. “We are now calling on international and local companies to invest and to continue the project,” the regional minister said. The Arakan State government estimated the finished project would cost 26 billion kyats ($18.9 million), according to U Aung Kyaw Zan. The airport compound is located to the south of Mrauk-U, outside of protected cultural heritage zones but close to the famous Koe Thaung temple with its 90,000 Buddha images. With support from private investors, the government hopes to finish airport construction in three to five years. However, not all of the project plans and proposals have been received yet, and the government will need time to complete negotiations with successful bidders. The Mrauk-U airport will make it easier for international tourists to visit the ancient city and encourage private sector development. Local residents are in favour of the airport because they want more tourists to visit with opportunities to earn money for local small businesses, said Khin Than, the founder of Mrauk-U Heritage Trust. She says that many foreign tourists travel to Ngapali and Bagan, but they skip Mrauk-U because it is difficult to travel there. Currently, tourists can only travel to Mrauk-U via Sittwe, continuing to Mrauk-U by bus or boat. “If the airfield is constructed in Mrauk-U, then tourists will be able to reach Mrauk-U in an hour from Yangon.
Expansion for Kawthaung Airport? - The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has announced that it is eager to expand Kawthaung Airport, in the far south of Maynmar, to be the nation’s next international airport. Minister Ohn Maung said his office and the Tenasserim Division government have discussed the proposed expansion of Kawthaung domestic airport. The minister pointed out that the Mergui Archipelago—the cluster of islands surrounding Myeik—has huge potential to attract tourists if the transportation infrastructure can be built up. “If we want to develop this region, we need to expand Kawthaung Airport so that it can receive direct international flights. We have discussed this idea with the divisional government and the Ministry of Planning too,” Minister Ohn Maung said in the report. However, U Ye Htut Aung, the deputy director general for Myanmar’s civil aviation department, said that his department has not been involved in discussions about expanding Kawthaung Airport. The civil aviation department would need to give its approval before the government could proceed. “We still have no plan to turn Kawthaung into an international airport,” said Ye Htut Aung. Currently, there are only three airports in Myanmar that are permitted to receive international flights: Rangoon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw. A fourth, Hanthawaddy Airport in Bago Division, is under construction and expected to start operations in 2022. Under the previous government, the civil aviation department planned to expand more than 30 domestic airports, but that plan was never realized. The Mergui Archipelago consists of more than 800 islands spread over 10,000 square miles in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Myanmar’s southern Tenasserim Division. Kawthaung district is situated next to Thailand’s Ranong Province. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism plans to promote this region as a major tourist destination in the future.