Villagers want KNU protection against dam project

Karen National Union, Ler Mu Lah Township leaders warn that there is a risk of a division between the local people and the KNU if the organizations district or central leaders allow the construction of the Tenasserim Dam, in Southern Burma.

Saw Thein Su, the KNU leader for Ler Mu Lah Township told Karen News.

“The KNU’s Ler Mu Lah Township leaders stand is according to what local people want and they don’t want the construction of the dam. If the dam is built there will be destruction of villages, villagers will have to be relocated, they will lose their lands and plantations and they will be displaced.”

Saw Thein Su warned that if the district KNU officials give the dam the go ahead they will have to accept the responsibility for the villagers welfare.

“If the district KNU allows it [dam] we ask them ‘can they look after and feed all of Ler Mu Lah Township people who will be displaced’? If the people blame us we will have to put in on the KNU. We want them to consider what it means for our people. If the dam is built local people will blame us and it will cause division between us.”

The KNU’s Mergui-Tavoy District gave permission to the Italian-Thai Development Company (ITD) to repair the road that accesses the dam site in Moe Ro village, in the lower part of the Tenasserim River. The permission period given to the company to repair the road was to end in April.

The ITD resumed its survey of the Tenasserim Dam this year, but were stopped by the KNU Ler Mu Lah Township office. The company was then granted permission to continue by the KNU District office to repair its access road. The dam site is now being survey between Moe Ro and Ka Wut Hta villages.

The ITD and Winfalls Energy Services of Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding with the former Burma military government on October 9, 2008 to build the 600 –megawatt Tenasserim hydro-electric project
on the Tenasserim River.

P’doh Saw Eh Kaw, chairman of the KNU Ler Mu Lah Township office spoke to Karen News.

“The KNU allowed ITD to repair the road to the dam site, its permit is meant to end in April. The KNU Ler Mu Lah Township standpoint is we don’t want the dam to be built. The local people don’t want the dam to be built. If the dam is built, the Karen people who have lived here for generations will be forced of their land. It will impact on more than 10 villages.”

The construction will affect 13 Karen villages at the upper dam site and 13 villages at lower dam site. Saw Ta Dah, from Moe Ro village told Karen News.

“The company came here, but didn’t inform us. We just learnt from other people that they came to carry out its survey. I don’t think the dam will bring us benefits, but it will bring the destruction of our properties.”

Saw Ta Dah said that the company did explain that if they do build the dam it would have massive impacts on his village.

“Our village will be destroyed and they show us how high the water will reach. I think if we have to be relocated many problems will follow. We don’t know where we have to go. Our villagers don’t’ want this project. We will complain to our KNU leaders in Ler Mu Lah Township. We want them to protest for us.”

Saw Tin Aye from Ka Wut Hta village told Karen News.

“The company said our village is in lower part of where the dam will be developed, but I don’ think so. We know the vicinity of the dam site we cannot stay. We don’t want the dam. If the dam is built our plantations and the area we use for agriculture will disappear.”

Saw Tin Aye said he and other villagers are prepared to fight against the construction of the dam.

“We will unite and protest the dam, but we don’t know how to do it yet.”

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