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Authorities of Dawei deep seaport threaten land owners to sell at low price

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – During the confiscation of more than 120 acres of plantations to build the administrative office of the Dawei (Tavoy) deep seaport, authorities threatened the landowners, according to plantation owners.

The Tavoy (Dawei) deep seaport project envisions that new Burmese trans-border corridors will promote regional integration. Through the port and transport links, an average of 10 days will be cut from the journey of goods bound for Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos as cargo will no longer need to pass through the Strait of Malacca. Map: Dawei Development ProjectThe plantation owners were forced to sign agreements for the confiscation of 123 acres of plantations located in the designated zone for the Dawei deep seaport project, part of the Dawei Development Project being carried out by the Italian-Thai Development Company based in Thailand.

According to sources, Khin Maung Swe, the official in charge of the Dawei project, said, “If you don’t agree, your plantations will be confiscated without any compensation.” The plantations are located in Mindat village in Yebyu Township in Tenasserim Division.

“We were forced to sign an agreement that said the buying and selling of land was on our own volition. Khin Maung Swe told people who refused to sign that their land would be confiscated whether they signed it or not. Owners did not want to sign the agreement, but they signed it because they didn’t want to loose their land without some compensation,” an owner who signed the agreement told Mizzima.

In September, the Mindat village administrative office made a list of the land and the owners and told owners that authorities would buy the plantations. On October 3, Khin Maung Swe accompanied by the Yebyu Township administrative office chief and surveying staff came to the village to make a final list of land and owners.

The rubber and cashew plantations are located east of Mindat village, about four furlongs form Yebyu. According to owners, there are about 220 rubber trees, and the average income per year earned from a rubber tree is about 14,400 kyat (about US$ 17).
Some owners asked for compensation of 2.5 million kyat per acre of land, but accepted lower prices to avoid loss of their land without any compensation. The amount of the compensation was tens of millions of kyat less than the current price of the land, sources said.

Work is underway on the deep seaport. Some believe the 10-year, US $8 billion Dawei Development Project, led by a Thai industrial giant, could invigorate the country's impoverished economy and revolutionize regional trade.  Photo: AFP “I was afraid that my plantation and inheritance would be taken at a very low price. But, it’s better than losing my land without compensation. I signed the agreement at their price. The notice letter did not say who or which department issued the order,” a villager said.

The Burmese government and the Italian-Thai Company have announced that the project would start in 2012, and be completed within three years. Sources said residents in more than 20 villages in the area are concerned compensation and forced relocation.

On September 19, the Burmese Parliament approved a Farmland Bill, which stated that if the government wants to confiscate land, the authorities must conduct a land survey, following which land may be confiscated by presidential order.

Mizzima reported in November 2010 that the government and Italian-Thai Development signed a contract worth US$ 8 billion.

The project on Burma’s east coast would include a deep-sea port with shipbuilding and maintenance facilities, a petrochemical industrial estate with an oil refining and gas-separation plant, and other medium and light industries such as automobile and garment factories, according to reports.

The deal is the largest single foreign investment development project in Burma. It came as Burmese state media also announced that Burma’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) would be established on a 100,000-acre (40,000-hectare) plot around Tavoy.

The second and third phases would incorporate the construction of the deep-sea port and industrial estate. With completion of the port, goods bound for Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos would be able to cut an average of 10 days off transport, as cargo will no longer be required to pass through the Strait of Malacca.

As with other industrial development projects in Burma, locals may well be forced to pay a price for the project’s realization, with land confiscation a distinct possibility.
Last Updated ( Friday, 07 October 2011 19:19 )  

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