Yesterday, an unknown armed group going by the initials BBK, hijacked 16 trucks belonging to the Italian-Thai Development Company working on the controversial Tavoy-Kanchanaburi highway been built in Southern Burma.
An Italian-Thai Development Company officer (who did not want to be name for security reasons) told Karen News about the hijacking.
“Early morning, five armed men, equipped with MA-2 rifles stopped all the companies vehicles traveling between Myitta and Kwe Waw Wah (aka as Ain Wai) villages.”
The ITD officer believes the armed group included many more than five men who attacked the trucks.
The Italian-Thai Development Company is a Thai owned company that is constructing the highway linking Burma’s Tavoy town to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi. The ITD officer said the hijacking happened despite the heavy presence of Burma Army troops guarding providing security for the road construction.
“The group called itself the ‘BBK’. The armed group released all 16 of our company vehicles by noon after we reached an agreement through negotiation that company workers would pay a fee of 10,000 Thai baht, the armed group also stole three two-way radios. The group has warned the company that from now on the company has to pay 1000 baht a day for each worker who travels on this road.”
The 160-kilometer Tavoy-Kanchanaburi highway is part of the $60 billion mega Tavoy/Dawei Development Project awarded by Burmese government to the Italian-Thai Development Company. The project includesa deep-sea port, a 250-square-kilometer light and heavy industrial zone, a 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant, and railways links to the Thai border in Kanchanaburi. The super highway system will also have transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines built along side it.
It has been estimated in the business media that infrastructure development will cost approximately US$8 billion and costs for the industrial area could reach as much as US$60 billion.
The Italian-Thai Development Company reported the hijacking to the Karen National Union (KNU) Mergui-Tavoy District (Tenasserim Division) the following day. KNU sources confirmed the 16 Italian-Thai Development Company vehicles were hijacked.
Battalion 10 Commander Lt. Col. Saw Du Na from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 4 denied any KNU involvement in the hijacking and told Karen News.
“We are checking this report and will try to find out who this armed group is.”
The road construction by Italian-Thai Development Company had been stopped by the KNU in September over concerns by local villagers that the project will have a negative impact on the environment and many thousands of local people from more then 20 villages will be forcibly evicted from their homes.
Following the KNU ban, the Burma Army responded by sending reinforcements to secure the highway for the Italian-Thai Development Company.