Italian-Thai surveyors’ attitude upsets KNU and villagers

The Karen National Union (KNU) are frustrated with the lack of transparency and cooperation showed by the Italian-Thai Development Company’s environmental surveyors.

The KNU accuse the ITD’s surveyors of refusing their officials the opportunity to accompany them or observe them on their trip to meet with local villagers affected by the construction of the Tavoy/Dawei-Kanchanaburi Highway, in southern Burma.

A senior KNU’s officer, based in the Mergui-Tavoy District and responsible for liaison with ITD’s surveyors, who spoke to Karen News on condition of anonymity, said.

“To accompany them, the surveys told me that we would have to submit an application for permission for their approval. This is opposite of what the protocol should be. They need to work in our area and should be seeking permission from us to survey.”

The KNU official said the attitude of the ITD surveyors had demonstrated a lack of goodwill and created barriers between the company and the KNU.

“It is our own area, we don’t need to seek permission from them. We will not ask permission and we will not accompany them for observation and we will not recognize or guarantee their survey.”

The KNU officer said ITD had already agreed with the KNU for its observers to go with the Environmental Assessment team from The Institution of Environmental Research of Chulalongkhorn University (ERIC).

On 26 March, the ITD hired survey team from ERIC and led by Dr. Kallaya Suntornvongsagul is scheduled to meet villagers from Htee Hta, Htee Kee, Wa Daw, Myitta, Kyauk Mae Taung, Tha Byu Chaung, and other at least 24 villages who will be affected by the building of Dawei-Kanchanaburi Highway connecting the Dawei Deep Sea Port and Dawei Special Economic Zone.

In December 2011, the KNU agreed to ITD to implement an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in 2012.

ITD is a Thai owned company that is responsible for developing the $60 billion mega Dawei Development Project. The Chulalongkhorn University Environmental Assessment began its survey in early 2012 and has met with local people a couple of times already. According to local villagers the meetings did not go well. Residents from the Kaw Moe Thway area, in the east of Tavoy and those from Tha Loat Hta or Ka Loat Hta where a dam will be built for the Dawei Industrial Zone voiced their disapproval of the university survey team.

Poe Sei, a local from Ka Loat Hta village told Karen News.

“On February 2nd, villagers from Ka Loat Hta refused permission to the ITD surveyors to come to their village or to meet with them.”

Poe Sei, said villagers were not impressed by the attitude of the surveyors in previous meetings.

“Villagers in Ka Moe Thway area disliked the surveyors after meeting with them. The surveyors only spoke to them about the benefit of the project, but refused to adequately address villagers concerns. The surveyors had no answers to the villagers questions about how big the project was and what much impact it would have on their lives.”

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