And M’sia’s ports too. All are major transshipment centres.
Thailand, for instance, the second biggest investor in Myanmar after China, is forging ahead with a bigger version of Thilawa [port Japanese are building] at Dawei, on Myanmar’s Tenasserim coast. The deep-water port, associated industrial zone and roads connecting them with Bangkok 300km away will cost about $8.5 billion. Thai rulers had for centuries been toying with the idea of building a canal across the Kra Isthmus, linking the Gulf of Thailand directly to the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean to avoid the journey round peninsular Malaysia through the Strait of Malacca (see map). Dawei will at last give Thailand that link.
Grand plans to improve roads all the way from Bangkok to Cambodia and Vietnam are also in hand to spare those countries the tedious rounding of Malaysia and allow them to ship their goods from Dawei directly to Europe. This could profoundly alter the economic geography of South-East Asia, much reducing the importance of Singapore’s and Malaysia’s container terminals as trans-shipment points. Thilawa will also provide companies like Famoso with more direct access to European markets.
China, long the biggest investor in Myanmar, has been toiling away at its own grands projets. The most important of these are the new oil and gas pipelines that crisscross the country, starting from a new terminus at Kyaukphyu, just below Sittwe, up to Mandalay and on to the Chinese border town of Ruili and then Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province (see map above). This will save China having to funnel oil from Africa and the Middle East through the bottleneck around Singapore.
Great video on Burma’s strategic position.