KNU tightens construction ban on Tavoy to Kanchanaburi Road

The Karen National Union has taken a tougher stance and banned all Italian-Thai Development Company vehicles from using the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi road that links southern Burma to Kanchanaburi in Thailand.

A KNU official (who requested that their name not be used) told Karen News that the KNU informed the Italian-Thai Development (ITD) Company representatives that they travel and use of the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi Road was banned from 15 September.

Sources close to the KNU explained to Karen News that the decision came after ITD representatives met with the KNU on 14 September. This is also the end of the time period allocated by the KNU for the company to carry out a road survey.

The KNU source did not want to expand on negotiations between the company and the Karen political organization.
In Early July Karen soldiers stopped all of the Italian-Thai Development Company road construction east of Tavoy, but still allowed ITD workers and vehicles to use and travel on the road. The latest KNU position bans any ITD vehicle from traveling on the road and stops all roadwork east of Tavoy to Thai border of Kanchanaburi. The KNU’s new tougher stance allows the company to bring food and supplies to their workers who are in Burma.

A few days ago the Karen soldiers avoided a major incident by not firing on a ITD car that refused to obey the ban and refused to stop.

Road construction sign on Tavoy-Kanchanaburi (Photo:KIC)
A KNU source said ITD company officials do not want to publicize or acknowledge the conflict surrounding the Tavoy Development Project it might jeopardize trust from their investors or shareholders.

The 160 kilometer Kanchanaburi-Tavoy highway is part of the mega Tavoy Development Project that is estimated to be worth more than US$60 billion. The Burmese military government awarded project to the Italian-Thai Development Company and it includes a deep-sea port, a giant industrial zone, roads, railways, transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines.

Most of the planned highway goes through KNU controlled areas – a conflict zone between Karen forces and the Burma Army.

A KNU source said the ITD Company has proposed to the KNU for a joint assessment of the environmental and other impacts caused by the project. It is understood by Karen News, that the KNU is considering the ITD proposal.

ITD has acknowledged to the KNU that 20 villages along the Tavoy coastal line will have to be relocated from their homes, but as yet there is no housing or utilities available to replace them. Company officials told the Karen that the Burmese government does not approve of the company building relocation housing.

A company source who did not want to named for job security reasons, said at the end August, the Italian-Thai Development Company started transporting construction material into the contested area. They said the building materials were needed to build bridges destroyed by floods and to speed up road construction in order to move heavy equipment and workers to the planned deep seaport site on the coast at Tavoy.

According to the company source, ITD workers are scared to work on the construction if they are not allow in by the KNU

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