The Karen National Union in Southern Burma says a coal extraction operation near Karen villages in eastern Tavoy is not welcome. Villagers are concerned it could destroy most of their plantations.
Saw Paul Naw, the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Ka Ser Doh Township official spoke to Karen News.
“In September, 2012, a Thai company, East Star, paid compensation for the damage of five Karen villagers’ cardamom plantations in Tha Nay Kler village. Each of the five villagers received 2,000 Thai baht (US$66) for their destroyed cardamom crops. Each villager owned about five acres of cardamom.”
The East Star Company had received permission in 2010 from the KNU’s Mergui-Tavoy District to carry out a survey to extract coal in the area. The coal seam is located in the area around at least four Karen villages in Paw Klo (Banchaung) area, east of Tavoy.
The East Star Company has begun clearing the land and extracting coal in Tha Blu Poe, near Tha Nay Kler village.
Residents say this is the first time the company has paid compensation for loss of land to the villagers.
Saw Paul Naw said.
“The first negotiations, with the company and the villagers, were in April this year. The company agreed to pay 1million kyat (1175 US$) compensation for each acre of cardamom crop lost. The company agreed to pay villagers for their land within one month, but until now the villagers have not been fully compensated.”
In response for not receiving the full compensation and until an assessment can be carried out villagers want the company to stop extracting coal. Saw Paul Naw explained.
“The villagers don’t want the company to expend their extraction operation, the company will seek to negotiation with the KNU. Villagers have designated a area for the company to extract coal that is near to Tha Nay Kler village. This area is about 50 acres. But the company is looking for ways to find more coal – this is mostly in the villages and in the villagers’ plantations. So the villagers have stopped them.”
Saw Paul Naw said as most of the coal is found in the middle of the villages.
“The company would like to start extracting it. If the company goes ahead, Htoo Ler, Kaw Htee, Tha Nay Kler, Ka Taw Ni villages will be destroyed. Villagers don’t want the coal extraction project in their village. They allege that this year, their betel nut and other plantations, produced poor fruit and are dying because of the affects of the coal extraction.”
Saw Paul Naw said villagers are also worried about the long-term affects of the coal mining operation.
“In the future if the coal extraction is fully operational it will also polluted the nearby waterways that are essential to the local people.”