Junta signals new hydropower deals for neighbors

October 14, 2008

Two companies from Singapore and Thailand have signed a new deal to receive electricity from the Taninthayi hydropower project in southern Burma.

The state-run-newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported on Sunday that Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power No 1 signed an agreement with Singapore’s Windfall Energy Services Limited, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, and Thailand’s Italian-Thai Development Public Co regarding the Taninthayi hydropower project on the Taninthayi River in Tenasserim Division in southern Burma.
The project is expected to produce 600 megawatts of electricity. No further details of the deal were provided in the newspaper report.
Asia’s energy hungry countries—particularly Chian, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore—all compete for hydropower projects in the military-ruled country.
China and Thailand are the largest investors in Burma’s hydropower projects.
Since 2004, Chinese companies have signed at least five hydropower contracts with the junta involving dams on the Myitnge River, Paunglaung River, Salween River and Irrawaddy River.
Thailand invested at least US $6 billion in projects in 2007, mainly along the Salween River in eastern Burma. Thailand’s investment in hydropower projects in Burma was about half of Burma’s foreign direct investment of US $ 14.736 billion for 2007.
Apart from investments in hydropower Thailand is also the largest importer of Burma’s nature gas—annual cost of natural gas imported by Thailand is at least US $2.5 billion. Analysts say Thailand receives about 20 percent of its energy needs from Burma.
Meanwhile, people in Burma’s largest city, Rangoon, complain that electricity is not available 24 hours a day.
“Even in the rainy season, there isn’t 24-hour electricity in many townships in Rangoon— only six townships downtown always have service,” said a housewife in Rangoon. “We will face more power shortages in November when the rainy season is over.”
Electricity is inadequate in most cities outside of Rangoon. In Kareni State in eastern Burma, people are living without electricity even though hydropower dams operate in the state.
(Source: The Irrawaddy)