18 Sep Myanmar locals slam Dawei contractor

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Residents block a road at Thabyu Chaung village in Dawei district on Sept 9 to protest against Thai construction giant Italian-Thai Development PCL for non-payment of compensation. (Photo: CSLD)

A group of angry Myanmar villagers have accused Thai construction giant Italian-Thai Development PCL (ITD) of failing to keep its promise to compensate them for losses caused by the building of new roads for the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial project.

Civic group Community Sustainable Livelihood and Development (CSLD), which represents the villagers, held a press conference to air concerns on Tuesday at the office of the Dawei Development Association in Dawei district, Taninthayi region.

The group also issued a statement criticising what it described as "unfair and non-transparent compensation” offered by ITD.

According to the statement, ITD began its transnational road link construction project in Myitta, Pyinthataw and Thabyu Chaung in 2010. The villagers say the work destroyed betel nut, rubber, and cashew nut plantations, which are the main source of income for local communities.

The group allege that land was confiscated unfairly for the project, ruining the livelihoods of many villagers. They also claim the company promised compensation would be paid to locals after an assessment of areas affected by the road project.

The two parties have held several meetings this year to discuss compensation payments and ITD has so far compensated 111 plantation owners. However, the group says ITD should also offer compensation to 38 others whose farmlands have been destroyed by the construction of the road since 2010.

CSLD argue that the Thai construction company has failed to communicate clearly with Myanmar stakeholders on when they would pay compensation. Members of the civic group had yet to receive compensation because ITD did not count their crops destroyed by the scheme, the statement said.

The issue prompted villagers to block a road used by the company’s workers at Thabyu Chaung Village on Sept 9 in protest.

They also seized three of the company's vehicles in an attempt to attract public attention to their cause, before releasing them on Sept 11.

CSLD demanded that ITD give a clear timeframe on the compensation payment process.

The group also called on ITD to immediately respond to requests from affected villagers to mitigate “tension between the local communities and the company.”

ITD has been granted a 75-year concession to develop the special economic zone and deep-sea port in Dawei in eastern Myanmar.

Kiwamu Honda, senior adviser to the chairman of the Dawei Development board, which manages the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial project, declined to comment on details of the compensation dispute between CSLD and ITD.

"I haven't heard about the protest," he said, adding that the board has been "willing and trying to help" locals affected by the work.

This article first appeared in the Bangkok Post on September 17, 2013.