Villagers in Karen State are upset tunnels dug on their land for international and local telecommunication companies was done without permission.
Naung Ka Myaing villagers in Hpa-an township, Karen State are now demanding and official clarification and paperwork about the cable tunnel digging project that was carried out on their farmlands and backyards
The tunnel excavation was carried out by the Fiber Optic Communication Network Co. Ltd for the communication fiber cables of Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) and Telenor, a Norwegian multinational telecommunications company.
Naung Ka Myaing villagers claim that they were given no prior notice of the digging by the company until they saw the tunnels dug through their farmlands and in front of their houses.
Saw Anaing, a villager of Naung Ka Myaing said that the least the company should have done was to have had the courtesy to discuss it with the villagers before digging up their fields and gardens.
“They (company) dug it without any discussions with the villagers. They let us know only through the village chief. They only explained about it after the locals complained. The farmers don’t accept it. They [companies] should have explained it clearly before they started the project. Now we have problems with the tunnel that goes through in front of our houses and across our farmland.”
In order to solve the problem, some residents from Naung Ka Myaing met with Bo Myint Htwe, the designer who is in charge of the tunnel digging and with Naung Ka Myaing village’s chief Saw Maung Tu.
Villagers said that when asked about the official paperwork and permission for the digging, Bo Myint Htwe was unable to answers the villagers’ questions satisfactorily.
Villagers found out later that the Fiber Optic Communication Network Co. Ltd submitted a written request for permission to Hpa-an district general administration department on 26 February, 2016.
Villagers claim that the official request letter from the companies stated that tunnel would only be dug on both sides of the road to the end of the road boundary, but in reality the companies dug its tunnel through the villagers’ yards and farmlands.
Saw Anaing said that the companies written request to dig tunnels and what they eventually did in practice are very different. He said that the company didn’t dig the tunnel only to end of road boundary as stated in the request letter.
“Their digging is not on the road area, but through our farmland and gardens.”
Saw Maung Tu, the village chief of Naung Ka Myaing admitted that he failed to inform all the villagers, but didn’t expect such a strong reaction from his villagers.
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Maung Tu said.
“Officials from the company came to us and asked me to let the locals know. As I had been busy, I was not able to tell all of the villagers. In our village, the cable tunnel went through farmlands owned by 42 farmers. I thought that as the digging also effected other villages and there were no complaints, our village would not object to it.”
Saw Maung Tu said that he was told by company officials that no other villagers who had the cable tunnel dug through their farmlands had complained or objected to the digging.
According to documents obtained by villagers, the tunnel will be used for a fiber communication cables that will connect Hpa-an to Mae Tha Wor in Hlaingbwe Township opposite of Thasong Yang District in Tak province, Thailand. According to the official letter granting the companies permission, the cable tunnel goes through Naung Ka Myaing village is only part of the MPT and Telenor fiber optic cable project. The project also includes connecting between Taungoo in Eastern Pago/Pegu Region, Hpasaung in Karenni/Kayah State, Papun and Hpa-an in Karen State.
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