EARTH Thailand

Dawei residents seek int'l standards for development project

The Nation 10 October 2014

Dawei Development Association (DDA), the gathering of local residents, yesterday issued a statement, urging leaders of Thailand and Myanmar to delay reviving the Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) development project until the problems associated with the project are resolved.

The statement was issued as Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is now in Nay Pyi Taw to meet his counterpart, President Thein Sein. The Dawei development project, a new regional linkage that will benefit both countries, is high on the agenda. 

Initiated in 2008, the DSEZ is a bilateral economic cooperation project jointly owned by the national governments of Thailand and Myanmar, who have equal stakes in the project. In 2010 a 60-year concession was granted to Italian-Thai Development Ltd (ITD) to develop the Dawei deep-sea port, industrial estate and road and rail link to Thailand. 

In the statement, DDA noted that during the time in which ITD 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 to local communities’ social and economic wellbeing. 

“None of the responsible parties have taken responsibility for these problems,” it said. 

In November 2013, the Myanmar and Thai governments took control of the project and concession rights were transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a new company, the Dawei SEZ Development Co Ltd. As the governments of Myanmar and Thailand jointly own the SPV and under the New Framework Agreement, the governments are directly responsible for the Dawei SEZ projec, and any negative impacts that might arise from the development. 

DDA said that based on current information about the future works to be carried out, it is estimated that 20 to 36 villages (comprising approximately 4,384 to 7,807 households or 22,000 to 43,000 people) would be directly affected by the construction of the Dawei SEZ and related projects, including industrial estate, ports, road links, reservoirs and resettlement areas.

Limited information about the project, a lack of meaningful consultation, flawed compensation process and a lack of accountability thus far, shows that to date, both governments have failed to address these problems. If these governments want to revive the project they first need to action to remedy these problems. 

“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. 

“Both governments should respect culture and tradition of local communities, recognize the use of land practice and the role of local people in natural resource management” said Saw Alex from Karen Environmental and Social Action Network. 

“It is clear that the project activities on the ground so far have been carried out in ways that show that the project management is seriously corrupt. Continuing the project and investing in such a project will maintain the status quo of ongoing illegal activity, including corruption,” said Dr. Kyaw Thu, an activist watching Dawei SEZ project. 

The association calls on Myanmar and Thai governments:

1. To solve all the problems, which have arisen over the past 3 years, before the Dawei SEZ project recommences;

2. To ensure international environmental standards and social protections are adhered to;

3. To respect the right of indigenous peoples, including to Free, Prior and Informed Consent;

4. To ensure the participation of local people in meaningful ways, in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the project;

5. To refrain from coercion or intimidation of local communities during the resettlement process;

6. To avoid involuntary resettlement when feasible, and when resettlement is necessary, ensure restoration of living standard and income opportunities of displaced people;

7. To disclose information in timely and appropriate manner, such as the Due Diligence report conducted by Ernst & Young; and,

8. To implement meaningful and effective measures against corruption.