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Dawei port: villagers protest land confiscation

 
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Residents of 19 villages who are being forced to relocate because of Burma’s massive Dawei (Tavoy) deep-sea port development project are protesting their eviction notices and unfair compensation.

People view a photo exhibition of the area around the Dawei deep-sea port project, at a Rangoon press conference organized by the Dawei Development Group on Friday, December 16, 2011. Photo: MizzimaA press conference, organized by the Dawei Development Group, an advocate for the villagers, was held on Thursday in Bahan Township in Rangoon to air the villagers’ complaints.

About 100 people showed up for the press conference including writers Maung Wun Tha and Ko Tar, Myanmar Bird and Nature Society environmentalist Soe Nyunt and local journalists.

Spokesmen said that Mayingyi and Kaloathta villages had been bulldozed for the project. The Dawei deep-sea port is 10 times larger than Laem Chabang, Thailand’s largest port.

Abbot U Awbatha of Mayingyi Monastery in Yebyu Township, Taninthayi Region, told Mizzima that many of the villagers have carefully cultivated coconut palms, which could support them and their heirs for their entire lives.

One villager said, “Even if the authorities give compensation, we cannot depend on the compensation for our whole life. We cannot give the compensation to our next generations as inheritances. We don’t want to move.”

The Italian-Thai Development Company is leading the massive port project. According to figures compiled by the Dawei Development Group, 32,279 people, 21 schools and 23 religious buildings from a total of 19 villages must be relocated because of the project, which is located near Nhapholel village in Yebyu Township, 20 miles northwest of Dawei.  

“They told the villages they must move, but I want to urge the villagers who must move and the authorities to negotiate,’” said a Buddhist monk, Pyinnya Wuntha, of Kaloat village in Yebyu Township. In November, village heads conducted a survey that found that almost all the residents did not want to leave their homes.

 In 2008, Burma and the Italian-Thai Development Company signed a memorandum of understanding. In 2010, the company signed a “framework” agreement to develop the project and it was granted a 75-year concession.
 
The project has three phases: the first stage extends from 2010 to 2014, the second stage extends from 2014 until 2017 and the third phase will be implemented from 2015 to 2019. Construction of an electric power plant, oil plant and steel plant are included in the project.
 
The estimated cost is a total of US $58 billion; the first phase is funded at $8 billion
 
The massive project includes a 170-kilometre, eight-lane highway that will link Dawei to Kanchanburi, Thailand, a railroad, gas pipelines, and the creation of a designated economic zone on the Burmese-Thai border.
 
Thant Zin, who has worked with local residents, told Mizzima. “To supply water for the port facilities, a reservoir will be built in Taloathta village and an area about 4-square kilometres will be flooded.” He said a two-lane road along the projected eight-lane super highway that will link up with Thailand is about 90 per cent complete.

 To build the road, farmland in Ashaytaw, Kaloanhtaw and Nabu villages was bulldozed without giving compensation to the landowners, according to residents.  
 
“Not giving compensations to the residents is bullying,” environmentalist U Ohn told the press conference period.
 
In October, plantation owners around Yebyu and Mindat villages were forced to sign agreements for the confiscation of 123.5 acres of plantations located in the designated zone. At that time, the official in charge of the port, Khin Maung Swe, was quoted as saying, “If you don’t agree, your plantations will be confiscated without any compensation.”
 
Construction plans also call for a coal-fired power plant that could generate 4,000 megawatts of power to be built to service the port and economic zone, which could damage the environment, said environmentalist Win Myo Thu.

According to the Dawei Development Group, the Italian-Thai Development Company promised to create job opportunities for local residents, but salaries are lower than ordinary rates and workers have many complaints.

“The salaries of Burmese workers and the salaries of Thai workers are different,” said Thant Zin. “Some Burmese women have become mistresses of Thai workers. The number of migrant workers is increasing, so there is more crime in the area. There are many problems.”
Last Updated ( Friday, 16 December 2011 21:46 )  

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