Representatives from civil society groups, religious leaders and villages in the Tanitharyi Division have sent a petition letter to both the government’s Division Chief Minister and the Karen National Union’s Megui/Tavoy District chairperson to try to get development projects stopped that villagers claim are health hazards.
The petition sent on October 13, was signed by 125 representatives from 46 villages, members of civil society organizations such as Tarkapaw, Community Sustainable And Livelihood Development,Trip-Net, Dawei Development Association and religious leaders in the region.
The Tanitharyi Division is host to massive resources extractions, agricultural and development projects including the Dawei $60 billion mega project that includes, a deep-sea port, industrial zone, rail and road links to Thailand, power plants and refineries.
Naw Pee Thalaw, spokeperson for the Takapaw youth group that is taking part in the campaign spoke to Karen News about the petition sent to both government and KNU officials.
“We made our call to the Division Chief Minister and Chairperson of KNU’s 4th Brigade because there are businessmen who want thousands of acres of land concessions from them – some have asked for up to 10,000 acres for agricultural projects such as palm oil and rubber,” said Naw Pee Thalaw, adding that villagers have lost their plantation and villages due to land concessions granted by authorities to business interest.
“Our Karen villages and our plantations are sometimes not on existing maps and when the lands are granted as a concession to businessmen, its location is in our villages and our plantations. We call on the authorities to stop giving out [land concession] permits.”
The petition pointed out that the flooding caused by development and business projects such as mining, rubber plantation and logging began in 2012 after preliminary a ceasefire agreement was reached between the government and the KNU. The petition also highlighted that a coal mining company named as East Star, is mining in the area of Ban Chaung in Ka Htaung Ni and Tha Nay Klo (Kwan Chaung Gyi) villages, and it did not take responsibility for the environmental damages following complaints made by villagers.
Padoh Saw Eh Na, joint secretary of the KNU’s Megui/Tavoy district told Karen News that there is no new development projects have been granted in the area under KNU control during the preliminary ceasefire agreement and if there is any, the companies have to apply for permission, have to follow the policies, rules and regulation laid down by the KNU.
Speaking to Karen News, Padoh Saw Eh Na said.
“We have never put pressure on civilians [on development projects]. The government granted permission for coal mining before the ceasefire agreement was signed. It is in both government and KNU controlled areas. Sometimes, we can’t go according to KNU policies if the project is in the government control area. For cases like that, we need to discuss among us – KNU, local villagers and the government.”
According to sources from local civil society organizations, 2,100 acres of land have been granted to May Flower Mining Co.Ltd while Japanese Nittetsu Mining Company is applying for 3,535 acres of land in the Kha Maung Thwe area and hundreds and thousands of land concessions have been applied by businesses for rubber plantation projects in Ban Chaung area, east of Dawei in Tanitharyi Division.