U.S. Unveils Solar-Energy Deal and Labor-Rights Program in Myanmar

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Wall Street Journal: The U.S. on Thursday unveiled two initiatives in Myanmar—a solar-power plant and a new program to boost labor rights—to help develop the country, even as some critics blame the Asian nation’s civilian government for backsliding on recent economic and political changes.

The solar power project will be the first in the country’s Mandalay region, home of Myanmar’s second-biggest city, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said. The solar project, valued at $480 million in equity and debt, is expected to include some American-made solar panels and other components.

New York-based ACO Investment Group is developing the project, to include two 150-megawatt plants, in conjunction with the Ministry of Electric Power in Myanmar, which was formerly called Burma. The solar plants are expected to generate more electricity in seasons when local hydroelectric power dries up.

Mr. Froman’s visit is one of several from top U.S. officials this summer. Some U.S. lawmakers have said the Myanmar government is failing in safeguarding the country’s Muslim minority, media freedom and democratic principles.

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier in August that Myanmar needed to press ahead with democratic overhauls but stressed support for its government and rejected calls for a harsher stance toward the country.

The U.S. removed some of the sanctions aimed at the previous military government in 2012, but American citizens and companies still face restrictions in the country. Even the hotel that the Myanmar government assigned for Mr. Kerry’s delegation is owned by a businessman on the U.S. sanctions list. A State Department spokesman said U.S. law allows hotel stays in such conditions.

Besides the power project, Mr. Froman said the U.S. is launching a program to boost labor rights in Myanmar, including helping improve worker conditions, relations with business and government policy.

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