Taungoo villagers protest Thauk Ye Khat Dam

Protesting Karen villagers and community organisations concerned that a dam construction will destroy plantations, roads and their way of life stage a protest against the energy company.

As many as 200 villagers from Taungoo Township in Pegu (Pago) Division staged a protest last week against Shwe Energy (Asia World) Company voicing their concerns over the negative impacts of the Thauk Ye Khat Dam that is under construction.

A woman protester told Karen News.

“When this dam is built, not only is our traveling or transportation cut off, but all our seasonal fruit products will be wasted if we can’t send them to markets on time. If this happens, the price of rice and other food items will increase sharply in our area. We are worried about these impacts that’s why we are protesting.”

Protesters from 13 villages in the Myit Ngen River and Kyi River regions that are in the upper-dam area, voiced their demands to stop the construction of the dam. Protesters carried signs asking for the river to be allowed to flow naturally and for the withdrawal of the Shwe Energy Company – the principal contractor on the dam construction.

The protest took place on last week on Tuesday, 25th of September. Local villagers joined with representatives of Karen community-based-organizations that included, the Karen Youth Organization, Karen Women’s Organization, Karen Office of Relief and Development, Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, the Karen Human Rights Group and the Free Burma Rangers.

Saw Rallson, from the Taungoo District Karen Youth Organization spoke to Karen News.

“The direct impact of this dam is that it will flood all the long term plantations or gardens located in the dam area around Kyi River, Myit Ngen River and Thauk Ye Khat River itself. All the plantations and gardens will be under water – the flooding will also destroy the car-road. There haven’t been any concrete guarantees from the company regarding these consequences.”

Shwe Energy Company plans that the under construction, Thauk Ye Khat Dam, will produce 40-mega-watts of electricity in November this year. According to the company’s estimates there only 56 acres of plantations or gardens that will be flooded – the company said it has paid almost two-billion-kyat compensation in September this year.

Local villagers claim that the compensation does not cover the cost for the loss of villagers’ potential income sources from both the forests and the rivers.

Villagers claim that they will not benefit from the electricity produced from the dam as the company plan to take it to other areas. Villagers are worried that during the monsoon season, that if excessive water is released from the dam it flood farms and crops in the area.

The protesters targeted their messages to Burma’s President U Thein Sein, government officials and the Karen National Union who are involved in the peace building process.

Naw Zipporah Sein, general secretary of the KNU told Karen News, that any development project should be central to local villagers interest.

“KNU has policies that encourage development projects that guarantee the security of local villagers welfare. The participation of local villagers is crucial and {developments should] minimized the impact on the environment. The will of the people is very important. Development should not be only for the short term, but for the long term benefit of the local people.”

The construction of the Thauk Ye Khat Dam, has meant that Htone Bo village, 14-miles from Taungoo Town, has been relocated, the company has promised since November last year to build a new model Htone Bo village. Sources close to the company say officials from the Myanmar Egress are in the area to access the situation of the Thauk Ye Khat Dam.

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