Japan, Myanmar, and Thailand have signed an agreement for a mutual development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar.
The agreement was signed in Tokyo on 4 July, on the sidelines of the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit.
The summit also adopted the ‘New Tokyo Strategy 2015 for Mekong-Japan Cooperation’ (MJC2015), which outlines Mekong-Japan Cooperation in the next three years.
Representatives of China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, attended the summit.
“Another important milestone was the signing of the memorandum of cooperation between Thailand, Japan, and Myanmar on Dawei Special Economic Zone Development which would be a new economic gateway linking the Indian and the Pacific Oceans,” the Thai government site said.
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The first piece of infrastructure now likely to be built is a 138-km road from Dawei to Kanchanaburi province, 119 km northwest of Bangkok.
If successful, the project will allow cargo to bypass the narrow and congested Strait of Malacca to forge shorter trade routes from the Middle East and Africa to China and Japan. One reason for Japan’s interest in the project is to counter Thailand’s influence.
Thailand is keen on the project because it will underscore its role as one of Japan’s largest offshore bases, while Myanmar needs the infrastructure.
It is a significant step-up for Japan’s involvement in the region and is backed by JPY750 billion (USD6.1 billion) in Official Development Assistance loans assigned by Tokyo earlier in 2015.