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Qatar- Ooredoo is facing a new competitor in Myanmar
Ooredoo is facing a new competitor in Myanmar
 
(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The upcoming launch of a fourth mobile phone operator in Myanmar means a new challenge for Qatar's telecom group Ooredoo which is currently building up a nation-wide network in the country seen as one of the world's last telecoms frontiers, with Telenor and incumbent Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) as its current competitors.

News broke last week that Viettel, Vietnam's largest mobile network operator and a government-owned enterprise wholly owned and operated by Vietnam's Ministry of Defence, will invest around 1.8bn in Myanmar to set up a mobile phone network on its own. In a first step, Viettel will create a joint venture with Myanmar's Yatanarpon Teleport, holder of the fourth mobile phone licence, and bring in 800mn in the deal. The rest, 1bn, should come from an unnamed foreign partner, it turned out at shareholders' meeting of Viettel held on December 3.

Viettel together with Ooredoo and Telenor was one of the bidders in Myanmar's 2013 mobile phone licence auction but failed to secure a licence. However, its deputy general director Le Dang Dung said after the auction that the company will continue to seek "co-operation opportunities with winning bidders to launch services in the country."

In turn, Yatanarpon Teleport has been looking for foreign companies to establish a partnership in the telecommunication sector ever since it received the licence. The company is majority-owned by MPT at 51%, with the rest being held by local private investors, among them Elite Tech Co, part of the influential conglomerate Htoo Group of Companies of business tycoon Tay Za, believed to be Myanmar's richest businessman but also a prominent name on the US sanctions list against Myanmar business people.

Before deciding to tie up with Viettel, Yatanarpon Teleport has reportedly mulled partnerships with Thailand's True Corp and Axiata from Malaysia, both large telecoms in their respective countries, but the talks were unsuccessful. Yatanarpon currently offers pre-paid mobile services and Internet packages as well as satellite communication. Ironically, its majority owner MPT will turn a competitor itself as it also holds a mobile phone licence and has recently partnered with Japanese firms KDDI Corp and Sumitomo Corp, which have said they will invest 2bn in their own mobile phone network.

Despite Myanmar still being a country largely underserved by mobile phone services at a current penetration rate of some 11%, future competition between the four operators could turn out to be a tough one and put prices further under pressure. Ooredoo and Telenor launched their new mobile services in August and September this year, respectively, and since prices for SIM cards have plummeted from 150 to 1.50. Both companies paid very high bids for their licences and need to invest billions of dollars in mobile phone tower construction and other telecommunications infrastructure, along with massive marketing incentives.

Adding to the situation is Myanmar's current devaluation of the national currency, the kyat, which brought with it rising inflation for consumer goods and lower purchasing power for Myanmar people, decelerating the speed of mobile phone customer growth.

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Refugees From Myanmar Boost South Dakota Economy: Reports

MOSCOW, December 16 (Sputnik) — Karen refugees who fled ethnic persecution in Myanmar have boosted the local economy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where 9 percent of jobs in the county are performed by the 2,000 refugees, a BBC documentary released Tuesday reports.

More than 2,000 refugees from the Karen region of Myanmar moved to South Dakota to avoid ethnic persecution by their government, according to the short film by the BBC Pop Up project telling about life in Pittsburgh area.

"Nine percent of every job in the county is held by a Karen person. Originally we were the only business that had the Karen people. But currently there about 30 businesses in the area that employ Karen people," Mark Heuston, director of human resources at Dakota Provisions turkey processing plant, said in the documentary.

More than 60 percent positions at Dakota Provisions are currently occupied by the Karen people, according to the film.

"Because of Karen this is probably the most efficient turkey processing facility in the United States," Heuston added.

The turkey-processing facility provides the refuges with an immigration attorney to help them to go through the application process to become US citizens, Heuston said.

"Karen people have been through a lot. For us it is easy to adapt to weather or to the factory, because here we don't have to worry about being killed," a Karen refugee said in the documentary.

The Karen is one of Myanmar's largest ethnic minority populations comprising 7 percent of the population of 55 million.

The armed conflict between the Karen people and the Myanmar central government began in 1949, the year after Myanmar gained independence from the British Empire, and lasted for more than 50 years. Seeking autonomy and cultural rights, the Karen National Union (KNU) embarked upon a civil war and a series of ethnic rebellions against the central government.

The government of Myanmar has been repeatedly accused of "ethnic cleansing" and human rights abuses against the Karen and other ethnic minorities since 1949.

Although the sides signed a ceasefire agreement in 2004, the human rights abuses against the ethnic minority continued.

The resettlement program for Karen refugees was launched by the US and Thai governments in 2005. Since then more than 73,000 refugees have settled in the United Sates, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Over 120,000 Karen refugees live in special camps in Thailand.

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A Synagogue Survives in Myanmar, Land of Ancient Pagodas

Built in 1854 at the height of Myanmar’s reign as a center for commerce, the Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue still stands today as a symbol of religious harmony in bustling downtown Yangon. (JG Photos/Wahyuni Kamah)

Built in 1854 at the height of Myanmar’s reign as a center for commerce, the Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue still stands today as a symbol of religious harmony in bustling downtown Yangon. (JG Photos/Wahyuni Kamah)

Downtown Yangon, Myanmar, is crowded in the afternoons, especially in the area’s commercial center. Street vendors, passing pedestrians, buses and cars dominate the streets of this multi-ethnic part of the country’s former capital.

I was walking down the Maha Bandoola Road, Yangon’s main business boulevard, looking for 26th Street as I took in the hustle and bustle of the area. The current street layout of Yangon is the legacy of British occupation in the middle of the 19th century. 

The downtown block system, which numbers the streets in sequential order, makes it relatively easy to find the one I was searching for.

Tucked amid the stalls and shops selling various fishing merchandise is a building bearing the menorah (a seven branched candelabrum and the symbol for Judaism). 

Its gates wide open, I entered the white colonial building and home to the Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue, where I was met by its caretaker, Moses Samuels.

I was about to take off my shoes when Samuels gestured with his hand, signaling that it wasn’t necessary.

It was my first time visiting a synagogue and the irony of visiting a Jewish place of worship in a Buddhist nation known for its ancient pagodas was not lost on me.

When the British occupied the Indian Empire (which later became modern India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as Penang, Malacca and Singapore) in the 19th century, Rangoon became the capital of British Burma (now Myanmar). Rangoon is the anglicized form of Yangon, the original name of the city. 

The flourishing commercial center attracted Jewish merchants from Iraq to trade with India. The community gradually grew to comprise of some 2,500 people, which prompted the construction of Mesmuah Yeshua Synagogue in 1854. The building was made entirely of wood.

Decades later, in 1893, the wooden structure was replaced with the current concrete building, thanks in part to Samuels’s grandfather.

The Jewish community was particularly active in trading, and became so influential that in 1910 the city had a Jewish mayor.  They gave donation to the local school, libraries, hospitals and also helped the locals in various ways. The community was treated with respect and the residents of Yangon lived in harmony, despite their religious differences. 

Maha Bandoola Rd. was home to a variety of Jewish businesses, including various shops, clinics, trade offices and even a school that educated some 200 students. A Jewish cemetery protecting 700 graves exists to this day.

“I was born in Myanmar,” said Samuels, whose grandfather came from Iraq.  

The caretaker gave me a tour of the  synagogue and allowed me to take as many pictures as my camera allowed.

The interior is very reflective of the country’s colonial era. Two rows of columns lead into majestic arches that nearly touch the high ceilings. The arched windows that line up on both walls are adorned with colored glass, reminding me of windows found in Iran’s desert cities. 

Framed, rattan chairs rest on marbled floors that reflect the fans spinning from the ceiling, keeping the synagogue cool.  

In the center of the room lies a bimah, a raised, square platform enclosed by a low fence intricately decorated with golden carvings used for Torah readings during service. Electric powered menorahs stand on both sides of the bimah. 

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue was once home to 126 Sefer Torah (handwritten scrolls of the Torah), but now only two remain. They are kept safe in a sanctuary, called the Holy Ark, located behind the bimah. 

The Holy Ark is a small room protected by three doors hidden by curtains bearing symbols of Judaism, including the menorah and Star of David. Its middle door was open, prompting me to tentatively enter the room. I saw nothing but a cabinet covered with rich, red fabric that hung on the wall. In it were two beautifully carved protective silver vessels where the Sefer Torah are kept.  

The cabinet faces Jerusalem, the direction worshipers face when praying.

The second floor of the synagogue is reserved especially for female congregates, according to Samuels.

The caretaker, who is married to a Burmese woman, has single-handedly cared for the building for 20 years with the help of donations, which also allow him to maintain the Jewish cemetery.

When asked how many Jews currently live in Myanmar, Samuels estimated there are only 20 left in the country, eight of whom reside in Yangon.

Most members of the country’s Jewish community fled the country during the Japanese occupation from 1942-1945 to escape persecution as they had been accused of spying for the British. 

Some attempted to return in the ’60s, but by then the government had nationalized its industries. With no chance of  finding work or creating their own businesses, a majority had no choice but to leave once more. The last rabbi of Yangon left toward the end of the decade and the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue has not held a service since. 

In 2013, Samuels held the first chauppah (Jewish wedding) in 20 years in the synagogue for his son’s nuptials. 

Though it no longer conducts services, the synagogue does celebrate Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippor and Rosh Hashana. 

“Every year at Hanukkah, we invite leaders of different [religious] communities in Yangon to light a candle,” Samuels said, adding that building welcomes tourists and visitors of all faiths.

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Participation in 50 MW gas-fired power generation project in Myanmar

Dec. 16, 2014

Mitsui & Co., Ltd. ("Mitsui", Head Office: Tokyo; President & CEO: Masami Iijima) has acquired a 44% stake in Myanmar Power Pte Ltd ("MPPL"). Mitsui, MAXpower Asia Group Pte Ltd ("MAGPL") and MPPL have signed a share subscription agreement on mutually agreed upon terms between Mitsui and MAXpower Group Pte. Ltd. ("MGPL"), the parent company of MPPL and MAGPL. MGPL focuses on the delivery of distributed power throughout Indonesia and Myanmar. MPPL's approximate project costs to date are valued at about US$35 million.

MPPL operates, through its subsidiary MAXpower (Thaketa) Co., Ltd ("MAXpower Thaketa"), a gas-fired generation plant consisting of 16 General Electric Jenbacher gas engine generator units with capacity totaling 50 MW in Myanmar and sells electricity to Myanmar Electric Power Enterprise ("MEPE") under a power purchase agreement with a 30-year term (the "Project"). The Project commenced commercial operation in August 2013, and it contributes to the existing national power grid by providing a stable power supply by way of state-of-the-art and highly efficient engines running on environmentally-friendly natural gas. It is supporting the expected further growth of electricity demand in Myanmar, where electricity shortages have hampered economic growth and development.

MGPL, through its Navigat Energy business unit, sells and distributes GE Jenbacher gas engines, parts and services in Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand and, through MAXpower, develops its own distributed power in Indonesia and Myanmar. MGPL owns, operates and has under construction, power plants with capacity of approximately 450 MW.

Mitsui will pursue new power business opportunities in Myanmar which is one of the priority countries for Mitsui by leveraging its participation in the Project. The Project strengthens the partnership between MGPL and Mitsui, and the companies intend to co-develop new distributed power business not only in Myanmar but in other countries in South East Asia that anticipate rapid growth in electricity demand.

Project Overview

Sponsors MAXpower Group Pte. Ltd.
MITSUI & CO., LTD.
Capacity Gas-fired power generation 50 MW (3.3 MW x 16 units)
Offtaker MEPE
Commencement of Operation August, 2013
Location Thaketa, Yangon Region, Myanmar

Photo of power plant

Notice:
This announcement contains forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on Mitsui's current assumptions, expectations and beliefs in light of the information currently possessed by it and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors. Such risks, uncertainties and other factors may cause Mitsui's actual results, financial position or cash flows to be materially different from any future results, financial position or cash flows expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These risks, uncertainties and other factors referred to above include, but are not limited to, those contained in Mitsui's latest Annual Securities Report and Quarterly Securities Report, and Mitsui undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.
This announcement is published in order to publicly announce specific facts stated above, and does not constitute a solicitation of investments or any similar act inside or outside of Japan, regarding the shares, bonds or other securities issued by us.

For inquiries on this matter, please contact

The information contained in this news release is true and accurate at the time of publication; however, it may be subject to change without prior notice.

 
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Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity in Myanmar

Raising farm productivity and incomes, more and better basic services for all, and a better business climate are critical to ending poverty in Myanmar, according to a new World Bank report, Ending Poverty and Boosting Shared Prosperity in a Time of Transition.

The report, which is the World Bank Group’s first Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), traces Myanmar’s untapped growth potential and widespread poverty to landlessness, low labor and agricultural productivity, lack of access to markets, on-going conflict and communal violence, and a legacy of weak institutions and policies. Coming off decades of military rule and international isolation, Myanmar has a GDP per capita of $1,105 and poverty is high. Most poor people – around 76 percent of all poor – live in rural areas. Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar has the lowest life expectancy at birth (65 years) and the second-highest rate of infant (40 per 1000 live births) and under 5 child deaths (51 per 1000 live births)1

“Myanmar has opened up and launched major reforms that hold the promise of better lives for its people,” said Ulrich Zachau, Country Director for the World Bank to Southeast Asia. “How can Myanmar seize its historic opportunity and bring down poverty throughout the country? The Systematic Country Diagnostic shows it’s about Three “I”s: incomes for farmers; inclusion—universal access to education, health, and electricity for all; and an improved investment climate for private sector led growth and good jobs.”

Raising incomes in rural communities depends upon increasing agricultural productivity. According to the report, most rural poor are engaged in agriculture, either directly in farming or through seasonal labor. Myanmar’s government and its development partners can help farmers increase productivity and raise their incomes through increasing rice yields, more crop diversification, value-addition for crops and products, and by granting stronger land tenure security.

Increasing universal access to basic services such as health care, education, water and sanitation, and electricity, will directly help Myanmar’s poorest people, who live in rural and remote areas, and in communities often isolated by ethnic division and conflict. These basic services, which government programs can deliver, help lift families out of poverty and provide for healthier and smarter children and happier families now, and for more productive and higher earning adults and businesses tomorrow.

The report highlights the importance of extending access to affordable electricity to the 75 percent of Myanmar presently without electricity, and of improving the investment climate to spur job creation by the private sector. It identifies multiple priorities for creating jobs in manufacturing and services in Myanmar by welcoming foreign and domestic investors: opening access to domestic, regional, and international markets; improving the unreliable power supply; developing the financial sector; improving access to land; increasing the availability of skilled labor; and improving information and computer technology services.

The World Bank report also highlights four prerequisites for success as Myanmar transforms itself to raise farmers’ incomes, to provide basic services, and to create a vibrant private sector generating jobs. Navigating well the transition from conflict to peace; social inclusion of all people living in Myanmar, including rights and basic services for ethnic and religious minorities; prudent macroeconomic management; and the continued opening of markets and transparent governance are all essential foundations for Myanmar’s economic growth.

________________

1 State of the World’s Children 2015, UNICEF

Information Source: WEBWIRE

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Saturday, December 20, 2014
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