Villagers dispute Dawei relocation claims

Tavoyan people in Southern Burma, who will be evicted from their homes to make way for a deep sea port and industrial zone deny claims by the project developer, the Italian-Thai Development Company, that most of the people have already been relocated out of the area.

Premchai Karnasuta, the managing director of ITD, told regional media that the relocation of residents in the project area was almost completed.

Lwin Lwin a spokesperson for the Tavoyan Voice, an alliance of community-based-groups, working to protect and promote human rights in the Dawei area told Karen News.

“Only people from two villages have been discussed for relocation. The company has only discussed the issue with the village headmen – not with the majority of the villagers. I think Tthe ITD claim is to try to persuade more international investors to join the project.”

Lwin Lwin said the developer should consult with the affected community and listen to their concerns.

“Rather than focusing on finding international investors, the Thai developers should worry about the growing community resistance to the project. Local people are saying it is not possible for ITD officials to claim that they have finished relocating people so the deep sea port and industry zone can be completed by June 2013.”

Humanitarian groups estimate that more than 30,000 people from 16 villages will be relocated from the $60billion Dawei Project. The Dawei Project plan to have a deep seaport, industry zone, a rail and highway link from Dawei to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi border.

The site of the Dawei development project lies in an important culture heritage area for the indigenous Tavoyan people.

Lwin Lwin said villagers in the area say that the majority of local people have not been consulted about relocation plans. Tavoyan community based groups say villagers are reluctant to move to the planned relocation sites.

“Most of the villagers do not want to relocate. So far there are about 300 houses that have been built for relocation – this is not enough to fit even one village. The villagers said that they did not get any information from the company about its plans to compensate people for the loss of their houses or land.”

Lwin Lwin said the planned relocation is unsuitable for farming communities.

“It is in Bawah and close to the sea. This area is not suitable for villagers who make their living from agriculture as the soil is close to the sea – this is one of the main concerns for the villagers.”

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