Bangladesh in Deal to buy Burma Hydro Dam Electricity

Energy starved Burma has reportedly agreed to build two hydroelectric dams in southwestern Arakan State to supply Bangladesh with electricity.

The projects at Michuang and Lemro will have power generating capacities of 575 megawatts, according to the Financial Express newspaper in Dhaka quoting Bangladeshi energy ministry officials.

That is about one third of Burma’s current national electricity generating capacity.

The paper said an agreement was reached during a recent visit to Burma by a “high-powered Bangladesh delegation.”

Bangladesh is suffering an acute electricity shortage causing frequent blackouts even in the capital that have shut down factories. Factory workers rioted in Dhaka recently over pay losses due to factory stoppages.

The dams will be built by unnamed Chinese firms with the Shwe Taung Development Company as the Burmese partner.

No timetable for the hydro projects has been disclosed, nor how they will be financed.

Earlier efforts by Bangladesh to build hydroelectric dams in Arakan, close to the border at Cox’s Bazar, have come to nothing.

A Burmese negotiating team will visit Bangladesh in the near future to finalize the power purchasing terms, said the Financial Express.

Brussels Trade Union Group Urges Tighter Sanctions Against Junta

Economic sanctions against Burma should be “tighter and more comprehensive,” says the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

It said recent revelations about the covert way in which Britain’s Barclays Bank attempted to continue doing business with Burma illustrated the need for tougher action.

“Governments need to send a clear message and tighten sanctions now, including on finance and insurance,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow in a statement, adding, ““The European Union in particular should step up pressure.”

Barclays recently admitted in a US court to covering up secret financial transactions with several sanctioned countries, including Burma, between 1995 and 2006.

The bank admitted operating a filter system in Britain which monitored any transactions involving countries under US legal sanctions.

It has agreed to pay a fine of US $298 million for flouting American sanctions law. Barclays is registered as a business in the US.

The ITUC said the international community should seek to force the junta to implement the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation Commission of inquiry into forced labor in Burma “instead of embarking upon uncritical engagement policies that could strengthen the regime.”

Than Shwe’s China Visit ‘About Business’

Burmese junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe will seek to promote business contacts with Asian countries when he visits the World Expo trade show in Shanghai next week.

He will attend the huge international six-month event during his visit to China as a guest of the Beijing government.

Than Shwe is going to China at the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao who visited Burma in June.

The two leaders initialed a number of trade and state business plans in June, and analysts say Than Shwe’s China visit will cement these, among other things.

“The Burma leader is certain to meet a number of senior representatives of Chinese state enterprises and I would think that construction, energy and mining will figure prominently,” said a trade counselor at a Western embassy in Bangkok on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Of course, the visit will be sending a strong political message of support from Beijing ahead of the Burmese elections but business will definitely be on the agenda, in the capital and in Shanghai,” he said.

Delhi Voices Concern at China’s Indian Ocean Ports Activity

The Indian government has expressed concern about China’s growing interest in the Indian Ocean and its investment in a string of ports.

The concern comes as Chinese state firms build an oil transshipment terminal for huge tankers on the Burmese coast, invest in Bangladeshi ports, and negotiate for port access in Pakistan.

“China has been showing more than the normal interest in Indian Ocean affairs. So we are closely monitoring Chinese intentions,” Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said in a statement this week to the Indian parliament.

The New Delhi concern was voiced as two Chinese warships visited Rangoon port.

Krishna made no mention of Burma with which it has been cultivating warmer relations, although it is understood that the oil transshipment on Ramree island in the Bay of Bengal will lead to increased Chinese shipping in the Indian Ocean.

The Ramree terminal will handle tankers from the Middle East and Africa bringing oil to feed a trans-Burma pipeline into southwest China.

“China has told India it has no strategic interest in the Indian Ocean, but that it patently untrue when you set out to use it as a conduit for much needed oil imports,” said Bangkok-based energy industries consultant Collin Reynolds.

“You can be sure that when those oil shipments via Burma begin the Chinese will step up their naval presence in the ocean, especially with piracy on the up.”

The two Chinese navy ships visiting Rangoon this week are part of an anti-piracy force.