Myanmar Business Today last week sat down with Chulapong Yukate, who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dawei SEZ Development Co Ltd, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) of the Dawei project. He is also the chairman of Myanmar Advisory Company Ltd, and serves as a Senior Advisor for Myanmar and Indochina of ZICOlaw network based in Malaysia.
Starting from the next issue, Mr Chulapong Yukate will write a regular monthly column titled “Doing Business in Myanmar” in Myanmar Business Today relating to business and law in Myanmar in general. Here is an excerpt of his interview.
How is the Dawei project progressing?
We are hiring international consulting firms to verify the past investment of the private company who invested in the project up until the special purpose vehicle or SPV, which is a joint venture company of the Thai and Myanmar government agencies, took over the project in November 2013. We will also soon announce the biddings for the project management office and the development of the initial phase which is consisted of around 20 percent of the entire project. Then the opening of the bidding for the various services such as engineering, legal, financial and business consultancy will be followed. The international biddings for the development of the full phase of the entire project with the area of 196 square kilometers will be announced sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2014.
Has the political situation in Thailand adversely affected the Dawei project?
No. The shareholders agreement to set up the SPV had been signed. The capital was paid by the parties and the members of the Board of Directors are in place. All framework of the tasks which SPV will have to do has been agreed and clearly indicated so that the SPV just follows the tasks under the framework. In addition, we have received the strong supports of the Myanmar ministerial team led by U Aye Myint, union minister for labour, U Han Sein, deputy minister for transport and Dr Maung Maung Thein, deputy minister for finance. Foreign investors have expressed high interests to invest in the project.
How is the Dawei project important to Myanmar and Thailand?
To Myanmar, I understand the Dawei project is one of the three economic engines of the country. When the construction of the Dawei project is completed, the business activities in the project will generate the significant figures of GDP, same as the Eastern Seaboard project in Thailand where a few years ago the manufacturing and the industries generated 16 percent of the GDP of Thailand. The Dawei project will also bring huge employment opportunities for the locals and improve connectivity among the countries in the region. We however cannot overlook the issues of environmental protection and the welfare of the local people.
To Thailand, the connectivity to the Indian Ocean and among the countries in the Indochina Region and the new places for manufacturing and industries will be the key.
Apart from the Dawei project, do you have any other business activities in Myanmar?
My friends and I had set up Myanmar Business Advisory Company Ltd last year to provide business advisory services to the local and foreign investors in Myanmar. With my background in infrastructure projects, project financing and insurance in many countries including the United States, Singapore and Australia, we are helping the clients with the projects in Myanmar. I am also an advisor to the Deputy Minister for Finance of Myanmar for the development of the rules and regulations for setting up the stockmarket and the financial and insurance industries in the country.
Tell us a bit of your professional background?
Having studied law in Thailand and the United States, I am a legal practitioner by training and have been in the private practice for 30 years in major international law firms in the United States, Thailand, Singapore and Australia. I returned to Thailand in early 2011 and my main areas of practice in the last 10 years include infrastructure project, insurance and business acquisition. I am a registered foreign lawyer in the State of Victoria, Australia.
Are you still practicing law?
I love the legal profession. I am currently a Senior Advisor for Myanmar and Indochina of ZICO law network. ZICOlaw is a well-established full service law firm based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has the offices in all countries in ASEAN except in Brunei and the Philippines. We also have offices in Sydney and Melbourne. We are truly the ASEAN law firm understanding ASEAN culture and way of doing business. Our Yangon office has opened late last year and we have great supports from the authorities and the clients. Even though I tried to set my role as advisor, I am still leading a team of lawyers in handling clients’ matters in the project financing deals in Africa and South Asia and also in Myanmar.
We heard you were also serving in the public office in Thailand?
Yes, I am currently an Assistant Chief Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Thailand.
Are you new to Myanmar?
No, 15 years ago I came to visit Yangon to look for business opportunities in this country. The country has changed a lot. However, I’m mostly based in Bangkok and Melbourne, Australia.
Planning to move to Myanmar?
Very likely, as I have excellent friends and connections here. I love the country and the people. One of my Myanmar friends even gave me a Myanmar name “U Maung Myint” as he said I was born on Thursday.