Villagers fear Dawei Project will destroy their way of life

The local people in Ka Moe Thway area, Tavoy (Dawei) town, in southern Burma have called for the Thai government to not to build dirty industry near their homes.

On September 20, around 200 villagers, who live along the Dawei-Kanchanaburi road, constructed by the Thai Italian-Thai Development Company, gathered in Kaw Htee Lor village to pray for a stop to the destruction of their livelihoods by the impact of the construction of the Dawei-Kachanaburi Road and the Dawei Industry Zone.

Villagers hung posters saying in English – “Stop building another Map Ta Phut in Dawei.”

Map Ta Phut, Thailand’s largest industrial estate that consists of a petrochemical complex in Rayong Province is considered an environmental disaster.

Saw Ko, the leader of the Ka Moe Thway Community Sustainably Livelihood Development, spoke to Karen News.

“Today we pray for our friends in Dawei who will be evicted from their homes to make way for the Dawei deep seaport and industry zone.”

Saw Ko We said his group wanted to send a message to the Thai government that the people need more information about the development project in Dawei.

“We the local people have not been given any information – we are afraid to accept it.”

The massive $60 billion Dawei Project includes the development of a deep seaport, an industrial estate that will have a steel mill, a fertilizer plant, coalfire power plant, a pipeline that runs along the road-link into Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province and highways and a railroad link into Thailand. The Dawei Deep seaport and Industrial Estate will cover, when finished, an area of 205 square kilometers.

Thai researchers claim the planned industry zone is 10 times larger than Thailand industrial estate, Map Ta Phut.

The Dawei deep seaport and industrial estate will be built in the pristine coastal area of Yebyu Township, inhabited by the Tavoyan indigenous people. There are 18 Tavoyan villages, more than 23,000 people will be evicted to make way for the project.

Saw Ko said.

“They (the Italian-Thai Development Company) did not provide us with detail information of the project and the possible negative impact it will have. They only came once and told us that we will have a big road and we can go to Thailand easily, but did not provide us with any information of the possible negative impacts of their project.”

It appears the villagers hope that their prayer service would have an effect on Thailand’s Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, fell short.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, met with Burma’s President, U Thein Sein, in New York during the UN General Assembly, last week, 28 September, and agreed to accelerate the development of the Dawei deep seaport.

Media reports confirmed that the leaders of both Thailand and Burma want to officially announce their plans for the project at the ASEAN Summit in November. 

The Dawei-Kanchanaburi road construction cuts through five Karen villages in the Kamoethway area and has destroyed villagers’ lands.

Naw Ma Nyo, a local woman from Kaw Htee Lor village, lost nine acres of land to the Dawei-Kanchanaburi Road construction, spoke to Karen News.

“They paid me for only nine acres – land that they first destroyed they have not paid any compensation. I am not satisfied with their compensation. First, we asked 400,000kyat (US$473) for each betel nut tree, but they reduced it to 120,000 Kyat (141 US$). When they first came they told us we would get a good road and they will give us the compensation that we ask for our land that they will destroy.”

Naw Ma Nyo says she does not think villagers will benefit from the project.

“We fear that we cannot use their road, and our land will be gone forever. We cannot find new land. If we lose our land our lives are destroyed. We don’t have more land for our family and our will be broken up. We want our families to live together.”

At the time of writing there is unconfirmed information from the Italian-Thai workers that the Burmese government is drafting a new law for the Dawei Project that will set the compensation price for the villagers.

Naw Paw Shi, a local villager woman form Kaw Htee Lor told Karen News.

“When the company came they didn’t tell us anything – they just bulldozed our plantations at will. We want development in our area, but if it is developments that create trouble and have a negative impact on our lives we don’t want it.”

Saw Ko worries the Dawei Project will destroy the local community.

“On behalf of local people I would like to say to the Thai government and the Thai people that we don’t want a development in our area that will give us fear, worry and endanger our lives.”

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