Following a ban placed by the Karen National Union on the Italian-Thai Development Company’s Kanchanaburi-Tavoy road construction, the Burma Army have responded by reinforcing their troop numbers by sending six more battalions to the area.
According to an unnamed KNU source based in the area, Burma Army reinforcements started to arrive on October 11.
The KNU source estimated that there are of now a total of eight battalions, deployed from Kwe Waw Wa (Ain Wai) to the Thai border (Mae Tha Mee Hkee) to protect and to allow the road construction to go ahead.
The eight battalions are under the command of Colonel Hein Zaw Latt who is in charge of Tactical Operation Command 2 and 3 from Operation Command 13.
In September this year the KNU requested the Italian-Thai Development Company to stop construction on the Kanchanaburi-Tavoy road after villagers and environment groups complained that the project would have a huge impact on the environment and would cause the forced eviction of thousands of civilians.
The 160-kilometer highway is part of the mega Tavoy Development Project, estimated to be worth more than US$60 billion. The project includes a deep-sea port, a giant industrial zone, roads, railways, hydro-dams, transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines. The Burmese military government awarded the project to the Italian-Thai Development Company.
The KNU, general secretary, Naw Zipporah Sein told Karen News.
“We [KNU] have to defend ourselves from attacks by the Burma Army.”
M’s Sein warned that Italian-Thai employees are at risk of getting caught in crossfire’s if fighting breaks out.
“If fighting starts in the area there will no security for the Thai company and the workers risk injury if they are caught in the crossfire. The KNU will not take any responsibility for the company workers safety.”
Naw Zipporah Sein said the KNU urged the Thai company to find a peaceful solution to the issue.
A source close to the Italian-Thai Development Company says the company is confident that they will go ahead with the road construction despite the KNU not approving the project. The source said the company is now using the Burmese Army to secure the area so the road construction can proceed. The source also said there is a possibility the Burma Army will launch an offensive to clear out the KNU in the area.
The KNU and Italian-Thai Development Company has held meeting on several occasions to negotiate the project, but no solution had been reached. The KNU promised that the Company will be given more details of their position on the project after discussions with the KNU Standing Committee.