Kayah State official bemoans local opposition to cement factory plans

A Kayah (Karenni) State official has likened local opposition to a contested cement factory to opposing development for the country.

U Ant Maw, director of the Kayah State Government Office, said the region cannot be developed if residents stand in the way of factories, which would bring much-needed jobs and industry.

“If they [the residents] are going to object like this, our country can’t do anything. [The cement factory] will bring job opportunities to the local residents. Also, the products from here will support the country’s GDP,” he said.

The 4,000-ton cement factory would be built in Pa Kyal Taung Thone Lone, Loikaw township by the Square Power Group (SPG) Company Limited. The company says it was granted a license by the Myanmar Investment Commission in 2011 under the previous administration.

“This factory project has been delayed for a long time. The previous government wanted to carry it out and they awarded compensation for the land. But [the project] was suspended in response to local residents’ objections,” U Ant Maw said.

The Karenni National Progressive Party and local civil society groups have been lobbying the government to more proactively engage with the public, before trying t press ahead with building the factory. During an August 14 meeting in Loikaw, Khu Nyeh Reh, who runs the KNPP’s liaison office, pointed out the factory plans may also violate the terms of the bilateral ceasefire, as the government is supposed to consult with the KNPP on any big development projects.

After an August 15 press conference about the factory, protesters planted cardboard signs along the road to the project site, denouncing the plans.

Ko Too Reh, chair of the Karenni State Farmers’ Union, expressed skepticism that the cement factory would be much of a boon for the local residents.

“I think they would only employ us to work as security guards, cleaning staff, and manual laborers. They won’t give us any high-ranking positions,” he said.

With the opposition movement growing by the day, and local organizations raising awareness about the factory, he added that he thinks it’s unlikely the plans will move ahead.

“I don’t believe [the government] will continue to carry out this project. We will hold a protest if they do, reminding them that they have full accountability and responsibility [to the public],” he said.