Companies continue to invest billions in the refugee crisis: Hit Myanmar


As the United States and Europe become increasingly outraged by the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, Asian companies continue to invest.

Bangkok-based construction company TTCL Pcl is one of the latest examples, focusing on the first half of next year to complete a financing plan and a shareholder structure for a planned coal-fired power plant of $ 3 billion in the state of Kayin bordering Thailand. The United States and the United Nations have described Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya Muslims as "ethnic cleansing".

"We are aware of the internal problems in Myanmar," TTCL financial director Gobchai Tanasugarn said in an interview in Bangkok on November 21. "Still, some Thai institutions and export credit agencies are willing to provide financial support."

The international response to a crisis that has seen more than 600,000 Rohingya flee in Bangladesh highlights the ongoing schism between how Asia and the West perceive Myanmar. While more US and European companies have tried to establish a presence since the generals released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010, Asian companies still dominate.

China in particular has led, investing $ 18.1 billion in Myanmar since 2010. That compares with $ 3.9 billion for the European Union, 63 percent of which came from the United Kingdom, and $ 133 million for the US . UU., Almost all of which have arrived this year after the sanctions were fully lifted. China invested $ 841.5 million from April to October alone, according to government statistics.

China has also been more proactive than the United States or Europe in seeking a solution to the refugee crisis, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi traveling between Myanmar and Bangladesh this month to help find a solution. Last week they agreed to start the repatriation of refugees within two months.

Although it is not clear if the agreement will work in practice, it shows how China is becoming more active in resolving disputes abroad, according to Francesco Mancini, visiting badociate professor in the "Scolding"

"There is a pattern here Wherever they have investments, they get involved in diplomatic mediation, and that is the case in Myanmar, "he said. "The West does not understand how to get involved in this part of the world, it's not useful to just go in and start scolding, particularly in Myanmar, which has been used to hearing this for decades."

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and former political prisoner, has been attacked by human rights defenders in the United States and Europe who accuse her of not doing more to protect the Rohingya. At a press conference with Wang earlier this month, Suu Kyi said China and Myanmar are "friends with the same values."

While the Rohingya crisis could affect development finances and investor sentiment, so far the direct economic impact seems to be very localized, the International Monetary Fund said on November 17. The IMF predicted a rebound in economic growth to 6.7 percent in 2017-2018.

"Ethical and commercial investment in Myanmar is one and the same if you are a company with a reputation to protect whether you are Asian or not," said Steve Wilford, senior partner at Asia Pacific at Risk Control consultancy Risks. "The last two major reputational risk badessments we did in Myanmar were for a Malaysian and a Saudi company."

Whiskey, Solar Power

Myanmar's growth opportunities continue to attract foreign companies. Some recent examples from Asia include:

  • A Thai Beverage Pcl subsidiary acquired a 75 percent stake in the makers of Myanmar's leading whiskey brand for approximately $ 742 million
  • Philippines ] Basic Energy Corp. saying that it would use domestic cash for a possible solar energy company in Myanmar
  • Kajima Corp. from Japan pursuing a development of 45,000 million yen ($ 405 million) in Yangon, according to a Nikkei report

Myanmar The nine major trading partners last year were all from Asia, and EE. UU It was 10th behind Vietnam. Thailand is the second largest trading partner in the country, a large part comes from Myanmar's natural gas imports.

Shares in Thailand's TTCL rose almost 26 percent on October 27, the day it announced a joint venture the 1,280-megawatt coal plant with the Kayin state government.

Once fully operational in 2024, the power plant would help TTCL raise up to 30 billion baht ($ 919 million) that year, Gobchai said. Last year's sales were 20 billion baht, down 7 percent since 2015.

The coal project is awaiting approval from Myanmar's Ministry of Electricity, but TTCL is already looking to the future . Gobchai said he could consider the construction of two gas-fired power plants in the country over the next three years, with a combined capacity of 500 megawatts, in addition to the one operating to supply electricity to Yangon.

In the energy sector, "the investment opportunities in Myanmar are huge due to the shortage of energy supply," said Gobchai.

In the long term, for any company that tries to break a border market, the key is always commitment, said Enrico. Cesenni, executive director of Myanmar Strategic Holdings Ltd., a foreign-owned operator and investor in Myanmar with offices in Yangon and Singapore.

"Like any emerging economy, Myanmar will experience shocks and investors need to take a long" view of time to unlock the value, "Cesenni said in an email.

– With the badistance of Aaron Clark and Kyaw Thu

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