Thailand continues to get more serious about the Dawei deep-sea port project as the Strait of Malacca - which it uses for import and export of goods - has a growing problem with shipping traffic jams. If completed, the project would reduce logistical and labour costs for the Kingdom as well as create job opportunities for Burma.
The project was mooted 10 years ago with a study by the Thai government of possible alternative routes to the Strait. And in May 2008, Thailand and Burma signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to launch it, with Italian-Thai Development as a potential site operator.
The Burmese government and the Myanmar (Burma) Port Authority (MPA) have also signed an MOU, said Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the federation of Thai industries and board member of the joint standing committee on commerce, industry and banking (JSCCIB).
The total project, estimated at Bt350 billion, was revealed during a conference between business operators and government sectors under the project Westgate Landbridge, organised by the JSCCIB. The four investors are PTT, Nippon Steel, Egat and Petroleum National Berhad (Petronas).
The Landbridge is in two phases: the first commencing early next year to construct a four-lane road; and the second, the building of eight-lane roads. These two phases are expected to be finished by 2015.
Italian-Thai Development project manager Surin Vichian said the highway route would begin from Phu Nam Ron in Kanchanaburi province to Dawei in the Tanintharyi region of Burma - a distance of 160km.
Currently 100km have been cleared to mark the road's unsealed route from Dewei and Phu Nam Ron. Work on the forestry area is to be left to the last as there are problems negotiating with the Burmese military, but the road planned by the Thai and Burmese governments does not cut through any village or community.
Within the Dawei project, plans are for deep-sea ports and industrial estates.
Its area is said to be much bigger than Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut put together.
In January next year, the deep-sea port will begin construction, together with roads for industry and public utility as the first phase. Completion is expected in five years.
Tanit said the cost of the deep-sea port is estimated at Bt100 billion.