10 Oct Dawei residents speak out over Myanmar-Thai plans for SEZ

Written by Mizzima Published in Dawei Read 6824 times
Construction is underway at the site for the the Dawei Special Economic Zone. Trucks in a supply depot in 2013. Photo: Mizzima Construction is underway at the site for the the Dawei Special Economic Zone. Trucks in a supply depot in 2013. Photo: Mizzima

Residents under the banner of the Dawei Development Association (DDA) issued a statement October 9 calling on the Thai and Myanmar leaders to delay reviving the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) until problems associated with the project and international standards are addressed.

The statement was timed to coincide with the visit of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to Nay Pyi Taw to meet with Myanmar President U Thein Sein. Their call also coincided with a statement by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to the governments of Thailand and Myanmar to cooperate to establish a legal framework protecting the human rights of the Dawei area’s residents.

The troubled multi-billion dollar Dawei SEZ is strategically located along the Thai-Myanmar peninsula with the aim to be one of Southeast Asia’s largest industrial complexes, with a 250 sq km deep-sea port, petrochemical and heavy industry hub.

After the project failed to attract sufficient investment, it was taken over directly by the Dawei SEZ Development Company, jointly owned by the governments of Thailand and Myanmar.

In the statement, DDA noted that during the time in which the Italian-Thai Development company was developing the project, various environmental and social problems including land grabs, inadequate and unfair resettlement and compensation, uncompensated loss of productive farmlands and forests, as well as various impacts affected the local communities’ social and economic wellbeing, according to The Nation.

"None of the responsible parties have taken responsibility for these problems,” their statement said.

"Local communities have not been provided with adequate information about the project. They have been forced off their land without fair or adequate compensation. There is also no remedy for those whose rights have been abused in the process so far. All of these problems must be resolved before the project restarts," said Thant Zin, coordinator of DDA told the newspaper.

Daniel Aguirre, ICJ’s international legal adviser for Myanmar said the project has faced people off their land, and damaged their farms, livelihoods and way of life.

“Any effort to revive the development now has the chance to avoid the mistakes of the past and to ensure that the rights of the residents of the area are protected,” Aguirre said.

The project has faced consistent questions about its potential impact on the area residents’ right to an adequate standard of living, in particular in respect to the rights to housing, food and water.

The ICJ has documented numerous complaints from affected villagers about displacement, loss of livelihoods and damage to local culture by the SEZ.

Many residents have refused to move into resettlement homes, complaining that they have not received fair and adequate compensation, according to the ICJ.

The Dawei SEZ was reportedly on the agenda of discussion points for the Thai and Myanmar leaders during Thai PM Prayuth’s visit.

Last modified on Friday, 10 October 2014 15:17