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Week in Review: Myanmar

Mar 13. 2016
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By Myanmar Eleven

Licences to EU insurance firms
The Insurance Business Supervisory Board plan to grant licences to European insurance companies which have had a presence in Myanmar for three years, allowing them to offer services to businesses in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone.
Offering the services now are three Japanese companies: Tokia Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Sompo Japan Insurance and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance.
Foreign insurance companies operating in the SEZ are required to have 30 years of experience in the business and at least two years of experience within Asean. They are required to pay US$30,000 (Bt1.52 million) for a licence and $10,000 in annual fee.
 
Telecom licence 
The telecom authorities will choose at the end of this month the international telecom firm which will become the partner of Myanmar National Telecom, the country’s fourth telecom operator. The enterprise will consist of 10 local companies. 
Seven foreign companies submitted  applications, including Singtel from Singapore, Viettel from Vietnam, China Telecom and Beijing Xinwei from China, Free Mobile from France and MTN from South Africa.
 
Sharp drop in illegal timber 
The flow of illegal timber being smuggled from Myanmar to China has fallen dramatically in the past six months, according to the Environ-mental Investigation Agency (EIA). 
In 2014, illegal trade involving 900,000 square metres of wood, worth almost US$500 million (Bt17.5 billion), against three million square metres in 2005. Its observation showed trucks disappeared. Illegal wood was smuggled between the border only through motorbikes. 
The EIA highlighted a combination of factors, from the arrest of 155 Chinese loggers and a glut in the market due to massive smuggling over the past few years to the economic slowdown in China and Myanmar’s general election.
 
Letpadan remembered 
Ceremonies to commemorate the first anniversary of the police crackdown on the students who were marching from Mandalay to Yangon were held in Letpadan, Mandalay, Myingyan and Pathein on Thursday.
More than 120 students and supporters were sent to Thayarwady prison with around 70 being sued under the penal code.
Meanwhile, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions will launch a campaign for judicial reform and the amendment of the constitutional shortly.
Its chairman Kyaw Ko Ko said that as the police who assaulted the students and activists had not been indicted, the judicial system could not be fair. 
He said the judicial power is under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is still under the control of the army. 
 
MIC criticised for hasty land grants
Yangon City Development Council executive member Khin Hlaing blasted the Myanmar Investment Commission for hastily giving land to projects such as Dagon City and the Yangon Parkway Hospital shortly before the political power transfer. 
On his Facebook, he said MIC had allotted a 17.07-acre (seven hectare) plot belonging to the Ministry of Science and Technology to Marga Landmark Development, a 3.5-acre plot in Bohtahtaung Township to Shwe Taung Group, 4.5 acres each to Adventure Myanmar and Thukha Yadanar in Lanmadaw Township, as well as a 4.4-acre plot belonging to the Ministry of Health to Andaman Alliance Healthcare.
He said such actions were done without consultation with the YCDC, giving the new government the power to nullify the MIC resolution. 
 
Focus on Yangon traffic jam
Yangon City Development Council will install new traffic lights in 154 places within six months, as part of its plan to reduce traffic jam in Yangon.
It said the congestion would be reduced by to 30 or 40 per cent after the system is implemented.
The 20-billion-kyat (Bt580 million) project is being funded by a special government fund. 
At present, Yangon has only 10 automatic traffic lights, which were installed with the cooperation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
 
Kachin party against Myitsone dam
Kachin Democracy Party chairman Dr Manam Tu Ja urged the new government to listen to the voice of the people who do not agree to the resumption of the Myitsone dam project.
On news report that China is seeking to find ways to resume the project, he said the government should not let it proceed if this is against the people’s will. He urged the Chinese and Myanmar governments to work together to terminate the project.
“President Thein Sein suspended the project to pay respect to the people’s desires,” he said. “The new president is also an elected person, so he or she will have to listen to the people’s voice.”
 
Shan groups unity sought
The Committee for Shan State Unity has resolved to set up a liaison team. 
The team will seek to bring Shan people and other ethnic minority organisations in the state into the committee, in an attempt to restore unity among all ethnic groups in the state and solve political problems among them. 
 
Resettling Kachin refugees 
The Myitkyina-based Peace Consulting Group has called on Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army to resettle more than 10,000 refugees who were forced into camps by conflicts that erupted in 2011. 
Work is needed to allow people to return to their homes, including the clearing of landmines laid by both sides, and creating job opportunities in the affected areas, PCG said. 
The KIA on Wednesday said it had agreed with the Union Peace Implementation Work Committee in 2013 to address the humanitarian crisis but no progress had been made. 
More than 100,000 refugees have been forced to flee clashes since 2011. 
The KIA said it was waiting for the National League for Democracy government to take office before holding peace talks.

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