War freezes Kokang econ zone

The Kokang economic zone, located at the epicentre of the heavy fighting that broke out in February near the Chinese border, is undamaged but unlikely to come into operation any time soon, local officials said yesterday.

U Kyaw Swe, the secretary of the Kokang self-administered region, told The Myanmar Times that access to the zone was still restricted, as the government has extended martial law over the area until July.

“There is no damage to the zone. All the buildings and infrastructure are safe and secured,” he said.

The fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) has inflicted an unknown number of casualties oon both sides, and has caused serious disruption to economic development by driving tens of thousands of local residents from their homes. Many crossed the border into China, while others took refuge in Lashio and elsewhere.

First mooted in 2009, the Kokang economic zone would be the first to be located in a self-administered area of the country. The government still hopes it will become a model for the development of ethnic areas that have been marked with violence and unrest.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) designated Kokang as an official economic zone under the terms of the Foreign Investment Law last October and granted the regional government full authority to supervise it.

The Kokang Marlipa Development company is building the infrastructure, and about 30 percent of construction, including electricity and water supplies, were complete when the fighting erupted.

The zone is located in Laukkai township at the 125-mile post, just metres away from the border with China. It is expected to provide 20,000 job opportunities, and was supposed to begin operations early next year.

“The current situation in Laukkai township is that residents have come back and the authorities are settling them back in. Construction cannot resume in the near future,” said U Kyaw Swe.

As of last October, the regional government had been in talks with some investors, mainly from China.

Regional government chief U Be Sou Chien said at that time the goal was to move toward value-added food production instead of exporting only raw materials.
The region produces mainly sugarcane and rubber.

The 1007-acre economic zone encompasses general trading, medium and small industries, hotels, and trading areas for construction materials, agricultural machinery and equipment.

“We also aim to add a future economic incentive for the reduction of opium poppy cultivation,” MIC secretary U Aung Naing Oo told The Myanmar Times last October.

Source: Myanmar Times

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