Thai surveyors fail to gain villagers’ trust

Local people affected by the construction of Thailand’s and Burma’s Dawei-Kanchanaburi road link in Southern Burma have rejected to be involved in a ‘public consultative meeting’ to approve the last stage of an environmental impact assessment report.

A villager from Kaw Htee Klo (Tha Byut Chaung) told Karen News that surveyors from the Environmental Research Institute of Chulalongkorn University headed by. Dr. Kallaya Suntronvongsagul had met with people from the Kamoe Thway area on May 6 at Pway Poe Kla village.

Saw Keh Doh, a Kaw Htee Klo villager, who attended the meeting said.

“The surveyors team only invited four villages – Kaw Htee Klo, Pway Poe Kla, Ker Gaw and Ka Let Kee -the other eight villages in Kamoe Thway area were not invited, but more than 100 villagers attended the meeting.”

Kamoe Thway area is part of the area where the Dawei-Kanchanaburui Highway construction will pass.

Saw Keh Doh said villagers did not know what the meeting was about, but were told it is was a ‘PC’ meeting. Villagers did not know PC stood for Public Consultation. The villagers accused the surveyors of failing to provide information on the purpose of the meeting. Villagers said the surveyors had distributed forms at the meeting and asked villagers to fill them out and sign them. Villagers refused to do so.

“We didn’t know the purpose of the meeting. They didn’t provide us with information and they didn’t tell us. They just came and held the meeting at short notice. We the villagers asked the surveyors to share with us their findings on the environmental impact assessment report, but they refused. Instead they told us that we have to request it from the KNU (Karen National Union) leaders, as they had already submitted to them. Many of villagers are afraid to ask the KNU.”

Villagers said they did not agree with the surveyors lack of respect for communities, and wanted a more informative and recognition of the local people’s rights. Villagers said they want access to the information before they could agree with the surveyors requests.

Saw Keh Doh said.

“We’ve asked the surveyors that in the future, if they want to have a consultation meeting with local people, they need to provide us with the information, explain the purpose of the meeting, tell us in advance and invite all local people who are affected by the road construction project.”

Villagers claim that the surveyors from Environmental Research Institute Chulalongkorn University (responsible for the environmental impact assessment on Dawei-Kanchanaburi road link), lack credibility with local people and have failed to gain their participation. Villagers say this has resulted in several boycotts caused by the lack of information provided to local people by the surveyors.

The Dawei-Kanchanaburi road link is part of the mega Dawei Development Project that is being developed by the Thai government and the Italian-Thai Development Company.

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