Villager’s concerns ignored as Thai Ministers meet in Dawei

Today, five of Thailand’s senior ministers will meet in Dawei with their Burmese counterparts to support the Burma government’s push to attract foreign investment for mega development projects to the country. The Thai ministers of foreign affairs, energy, transport, industry and finance will attend the Dawei meeting, organized by Burma’s President, Thein Sein, to highlight Thai investment in Burma.

Burmese and Karen villagers from the Dawei (also known as Tavoy) region have formed a committee to urge Thai investors in Dawei and Burma’s authorities to consult with them and include their concerns about how the Dawei Special Economic Zone will impact their lives.

The Sustainable and Development Committee that represents 13 villages in the Ka Moe Thway area east of Dawei, released a statement in Karen, ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the Thai and Burma ministers to discuss the Dawei Special Economic Zone.

The Sustainable and Development Committee statement said the IDT Company had been in the Myitta village area for over a year, but has failed to make contact or consult local people about the construction work.

“The company did not tell villagers that they will build a coal fire power plant that will have a huge impact on local people, their health and the environment.”

The committee said they will protest the development if it has negative impacts on the environment, people and their health.

The Italian-Thai Development Company is a Thai owned company that is developing the $60 billion mega Tavoy/Dawei Development Project in Southern Burma. The project includes a deep-sea port, light and heavy industrial zone, a 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant, and railways links to the Thai border in Kanchanaburi. The super highway system will also have transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines constructed alongside it.

Another local Burmese organization, Dawei Development Association (DDA), has also lent its voiced to the concerns expressed by the Sustainable and Development Committee and said in a statement.

“The project has to benefit local people, the people in Burma and – it should be a ‘Sustainable Green Project.’ The project must not have negative impacts on the environment or the public’s health. The investors and developers need to carry out an Environment Impact Assessment and a Social Impact Assessment that has to include independent and international experts. The local need to be informed of the outcomes of the assessments.”

The Dawei Development Association is a group that represents local people in Dawei, the area where the Italian-Thai Development Company plans to build the 250 square kilometers industry zone and deep-sea port.

According to DDA the industrial area that is planned in Nabule is an important cultural and heritage site for the people in Tavoy – there are many historical pagodas, an old town and about 20 villages with a population of 32,000 people who will be evicted.

“The investors and developers have to look at the peoples viewpoint. The relocation of the people should not destroy their cultural heritage, their lands, farms and plantations. If they are destroyed the company has to pay fair compensation and within a fixed timeframe.”

The DDA also urged that the developers and the Burma government involves those most affected by the project – the local people.

“The project should be discussed with civilian society organisations, local and international NGOs, UN’s organisations, local authorities and most importantly local villagers.”

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