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Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2012

Marubeni nudges Myanmar toward satellite project


Myanmar is thinking of launching a small Earth-observation satellite with Japanese aid.

Marubeni Aerospace Corp. has been doing a feasibility study for the Myanmar government that is scheduled to be concluded later this year, a company official said.

Myanmar Transport Minister Nyan Tun Aung met with a regional representative of Marubeni Corp., the firm's parent, last Wednesday ahead of a workshop on the plan next month, the official said.

"We are in the process of assessing if the launch will be valuable for Myanmar. We have yet to draw up a report," the official said. "It may take a long time before a decision is made."

He said the satellite is one of numerous projects that might be funded with the aid of official Japanese loans.

If the satellite is approved, it will be used by the meteorology and hydrology department of Myanmar's transport ministry, according to official Myanmar media.

As the country moves toward democracy after decades of isolation, Japan announced in April it was forgiving about $3.7 billion of Myanmar's debt and unfreezing aid as Japanese firms move to set up shop there.

Myanmar has a wealth of largely untapped natural resources — including minerals, metals and fossil fuels — and huge potential for tourism, although hurdles abound from its weak rule of law and poor infrastructure.

The junta that ran the country for decades handed power to a quasi-civilian regime — dominated by former soldiers — in a bloodless political transition in March 2011.

A series of reforms ensued that have been praised by the domestic opposition and the West, with biting sanctions that once stymied its development gradually being eased.

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