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Dawei project – KNU to have a say in environment survey

The Italian-Thai Development Company told Karen National Union leaders in a meeting on Saturday that, despite rumors to the contrary, ITD are not withdrawing from its plans to construct the Dawei deep-sea port and Dawei (Tavoy) Special Economic Zone.

Dawei-Kan-road-on-construction-photo-KwekaluPadoh Saw Thu Yeh, an executive member of the KNU’s Mergui-Tavoy District, explained to Karen News that he had met ITD Vice President Anan Amarapala (Marine) and other officials for an update on the $60 billion Dawei meg-project.

“The ITD said they would continue to with the Dawei project. They said the media reports about ITD’s wavering commitment and involvement in the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone are untrue.”

P’doh Saw Thu Yeh added that the meeting was an update for the KNU.

“ITD clarified for us their position on the project, but the company did not disclose their share information to the KNU.”

Regional media reports have said that ITD are uncertain to continue the Dawei deep-sea port as a lack of investment money and concerns over the uncertainty about the long-term political situation in Burma.

Deputy Transport Minister, Chadchart Sittipunt told Port Strategy recently, “One reason for the decision to push on with Pak Bara is the continuing uncertainty over the Dawei mega-port in Myanmar”.

The Thai Ministry of Transport has also granted ITD to build another deep seaport in Thailand, at Pak Bara on the Andaman coast, while it waits for the Burma govern decision about Dawei.

P’doh Saw Thu Yeh told Karen News that ITD could run into money problems if their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report is not approve by investors.

“The ITD could only loan money, to carry out their project after their EIA and SIA assessment report is out which will be in June, if it is approved”

It has been reported in the Thai media that ITD is in the process of seeking major investors from Japan, South Korea and China, as well as the PTT Thai state-owned oil and gas group.

The ITD president Premchai Karnasuta was quoted in April in the Thai media that the company was seeking long-term loans from international financial institutions to finance the Dawei project.

It was also cited in the Bangkok based newspaper, The Nation, that ITD president Premchai Karnasuta also said the company “had 80,000 rai (12,800 hectares) of saleable land within the Dawei project, of which 30,000 rai was in the process of being sold to investors who are interested in power plants, an integrated steel plant, and the deep-sea port itself.”

The KNU Mergui-Tavoy District leaders and ITD officials agreed at their May 5th meeting that the KNU will form three coordination groups one will work with ITD on a survey on the highway access road linking Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province to Dawei, the other two groups will work on the EIA, SIA and CSR (corporate social responsibility) teams.

P’doh Saw Thu Yeh said ITD had already signed an agreement with the local people that all those affected by the project will be compensated.

P’doh Saw Thu Yeh said.

“ITD agreed they will support indigenous people to development projects improve their living standards.”

P’doh Saw Thu Yeh explained that the issues discussed between the KNU and ITD are only in areas under the control of the KNU. Areas under the control of the Burma government are being dealt with as separate issues.

But not everyone is happy with the project. Saw Ku, a local Karen elder living in the east of Tavoy, who is directly affected by the development project, told Karen News.

“Local people are worried. We need development without fear of our life, we need our security and to able to earn a livelihood. We cannot rely on rulings made by the [Burma] government, they do not stand for the people interests.”

The ITD Company and its EIA and SIA team from the Environmental Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University (ERIC) are facing strong opposition and dissatisfaction among local people, especially in the east of Tavoy.

On March 30, Karen villagers in the Kamoethway area, in front of Thai media, embarrassed ITD officials and its survey team by boycotting and leaving the meeting after ITD refused to pay compensation to villagers.

Among the villager’s allegations – the ITD officials treat them with disrespect, do not consult or ask permission from local people about the project, lie to the people and take advantage on the situation in areas where the international media cannot access.