Rangoon ChinaYangon China
Aung San Suu Kyi's man in Rangoon under fire over China-Through Agreement
The first big infrastructural initiative by Aung San Suu Kyi could hardly be more evident - hundrets of new yellows now in the Rangoon roads will be a powerful icon of how it is changing people's minds. However, two agreements to bring 2,000 fines from China, valued at more than $100 million, have created an uncommon gap within their National League for Democracy (NLD), with local legislators challenging their costs and blaming Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein, a Suu Kyi protege, for nepotism and unaccountability.
Deals made with China firms and a business man with links to the Burmese regime for many years have also worsened diplomatic links with the West. Whilst there is no proof that legislation was violated in the award of procurement orders, Roland Kobia, the EU Goodwill Envoy to Burma, wrote a personal message to Trade Minister Than Myint complaining about a failure of openness in the award of procurement missions.
It did not specifically relate to the coach business. Even though China's coaches were about half as expensive as Burma's global competitors, the engineer who checked them for Burma predicts that they will have to be worn out and replace much earlier than the global peculiar. Previously, he and other finance minister argued for the transaction by saying that the intergovernmental treaty with China provided a discounted rate and expedited shipping.
However, the Rangoon bush deal underlines that Suu Kyi's supporters in the West are disenchanted as Burma is doing increasing trade with China. Suu Kyi's offer to revamp the outdated Rangoon transportation system is one of the first ways to make a real difference to the life of more than 2 million people commuting to a place that cast an overwhelming vote for the NLD in the last elections.
Last year, Rangoon leaders opposed a suggestion to upgrade the World Bank's International Finance Corporation transport infrastructure, as there were disagreements over the scheme's detail, which necessitated in-depth transport surveillance and an open tendering proces. The first discussions with prospective operators in France and the Netherlands also failed because they were unable to supply the number of coaches at the pace demanded by the prime ministers, said Diplomates and advocates.
The Yangon Bus Society (YBPC), a public-private sector jointly controlled by the municipal authorities, purchased 1,000 coaches from two China based vendors selected by Beijing's Ambassadors in Burma, Hong Liang. A further 1,000 coaches were purchased by Kyaw Ne Win, a grandchild of former Ne Win, a former head of the Congregation.
With Suu Kyi - whose Western popularity has been tainted by accusations by the Muslim minorities against the Rohingya Muslim community - China and Burma have attempted to re-establish relations burdened by the blockade in 2011 of a China-backed hydroelectric power plant by a former semicivilian state. Suu Kyi and China's President Xi Jinping on a visit to China in September were discussing how Burma could benefit from China's Belt and Road infrastructural spending program, a high-ranking officer in the Burmese president's office said.
A Suu Kyi said that there were some doubts in Burma about the intrinsic qualities of China's produce, which prompted Xi to suggest that the Embassy of China could help find the best supplier, a high-ranking officer of a China based business that was part of the transaction said. Costs for the cars were fixed at $56,000 each and the contract was initialled on April 11.
In the following two month, the companies that had been awarded the contract, Anhui Ankai Automobil Co Ltd and Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co, each supplied 500 coaches. Zhengzhou Yutong, in private ownership, is headed by Yuxiang Tang, a member of China's National People's Congress. While Maung Aung said that the two companies were identified on the basis of unknown selection thresholds, the local government of the provinces in which they are located in China has provided covenants.
In Rangoon, the Embassy of China did not react to inquiries for comments. Soe Aung, an engineering who checked the China coaches to Burma before they were purchased, confirmed that they were of lower standard than alternative transport in Europe or Japan, which in his opinion would have been about twice as expensive, while an upgrade over the 40-year-old unconditioned cars in which long-suffering Rangoon commuteers have been sweating for years.
According to the Western expert in procuring means of transportation, the mean service life of busses is usually more than twice as long. Following the signing of the agreement in April, some legislators claimed that issues relating to funding, the company's plans and the choice of fines remained either unresolved or evaded. Rangoon Division Secretary of State Myint Thaung refused to disclose further information on Reuters' funding of the transaction.
Principal Commander Siron purchased busses from Beiqi Foton Motor Co Ltd - another government agency in China - but refused to talk about the terms of the deed.