By Shwe Aung
Local residents in southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division who are facing possible relocation to make way for Dawei [Tavoy] deep-sea port project construction held a press conference in Rangoon yesterday.
The conference’s aim was to publicise their demands, to ensure safetyfor the natural environment, and an adequate sum of compensation if they have to abandon their homes and farmlands.
Speakers at the conference and residents in Tavoy and nearby villages who call themselves Dawei Region Development Group, told journalists their demands at Royal Rose Restaurant in Shwegondai township on December 15. They said they would like guidelines to be specified based on the local public’s opinion established through surveys, they want to ensure protection for their livelihood and cultural heritage sites, and to ensure an appropriate amount of compensation for those who face relocation.
They also demanded for an environment and health-impact survey to be conducted by an independent organisation, and its findings to be publicised. And they asked to keep a communication channel between Non-Government Organisations, authorities, United Nations groups and the locals for a sustainable and long-term development project.
Abbot monk of Mayamingyi village in Tavoy Distrct, who was among some 100 people attending the press conference, said his village is already witnessing some destruction of natural environment as the construction begins to roll in.
“They are bulldozing the hill-strip next to our village from all sides and we used to find vegetables for food up there. And our cashew nut plantations were also destroyed by a costal-road construction. The villagers did not receive any compensation for that and they are disappointed,” said the monk.
“Apparently the locals might also have to move [from the villages] but they don’t want that – they don’t want the compensation either. They just want their trees.”
Dawei deep-sea port is a multi-billion dollar project being developed by Thailand based construction company Italian-Thai Industrial Company Limited. The 10-year project looks to transform the region into a Special Economic Zone and includes development of a large, 250 square kilometre industrial zone for heavy industry and petro-chemical plants. In November 2010, Burmese government’s Myanmar Port Authority signed an 8.6 billion US dollar contract with Ital-thai, giving it green-light to go ahead with the project.
In June this year, Ital-thai said around 10,000 people would have to be relocated to make way for the development.