myanmar report

Thailand and Dawei Special Economic Zone: Road Link to Kilometer Zero (for Disaster?)

24th August 2019, Multipurpose Room, Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC)

The forum takes off with welcome remarks from Areewan Sombunwatthanakun, Project Coordinator Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), a member of ETOs Watch Coalition. The documentary screening titled “Thai Investment and Dawei” from Backpack Journalists is followed on- experiences of MapThaPhut and Dawei SEZ. There is approximately 70 participants attending the forum; representing NGOs, CSOs, the academic and wider public.

The documentary shows the situation of marine pollution from the operation of Map Ta Phut Industrial complex. The documentary communicates the situation of marine pollution near MapTaPhut Industrial complex-whereby the contamination of heavy metals in marine animals is found and they are carcinogen. The experiences show intensive impacts of lignite coal mining and Petrochemical Industries (located in MapTaPhut Industrial complex) and contamination of heavy metals in water resources and the environment which causes cancers.

The documentary sets the scene of why the impacted communities have to fight for the rehabilitation of MapTaPhut’s marine environment. The experiences of MapTaPhut shows a lifelong resistance and fight against the industrial complex due to the concerns on pollution and health.

Dawei SEZ could be the biggest project in Southeast Asia if built. There are hydropower, lignite coal mining& power plant and heavy industries such as the petrochemical industry. Bawa is the resettlement site. Ma Lay and her families are the first batch of resettles who moved to the relocation site.

Kalonethar is the village designated for Dawei road link. Honorable Panya Wanta, the monk leader in Kalonethar talked about how the communities have been mobilized to fight against the dam project in Kalonethar which will be supplying electricity to the Dawei SEZ. Dawei road link will be mostly in KNU control area. The Ceasefire agreement has been seized so that caused concerns for the KNU, if the development project is going ahead. It may exacerbate or hamper the peace process. The road was started in 2553 without any consultation with the directly impacted communities. Betel nuts farms have been destroyed by bulldozers completely without any notification to the Nabule communities.

The road link will cut through mountains and forests. The project will give access to deforestation and logging for timbers in Tanintharyi Mountain. In 2013, the community’s representatives came to Thailand to submit a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). 16 May 2016 the Cabinet of Thailand issued the resolution that highlights the extraterritorial obligations of Thai investors who operating abroad, such as the developer of Dawei SEZ project.

CSOs in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand has monitored the progress of Dawei road link. Major concerns include environmental and health impacts caused by heavy industries in Dawei SEZ i.e. air and water pollution. It is only 60 k.m. from the border- the wind direction may bring toxic chemicals to Thai side. The Road link includes the highway from Phu Nam Ron border checkpoint to Bangkok, the road cut through the community’s lands and farms. They demanded for public hearing in Thai side before this highway takes place. Communities place the demand that fair and just compensation must be provided to the impacted communities.

Luntharimar Longcharoen, an independent researcher run the public forum as MC. The introduction of last year’s event was mentioned as the introduction. The public seminar focus on the extraterritorial obligation of Thai investors such as in Dawei SEZ project. We asked critical questions if ‘Thai investments in Myanmar are for Myanmar people, Is it development or disaster?’

This year Dawei road link is the focus of the public forum. Representatives from Karen impacted communities traveled to Thailand during 22-23 August to file a complaint alleging human rights violations caused by Dawei road link project. The complaint was submitted to Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation- NEDA and NHRCT. Representatives from the Karen impacted communities are attending this public forum to share their concerns and stories.

The first speaker of the public forum is Ashley Scott KellyFaculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong present ‘Counter-assessment of impacts and history for the Dawei road link, 1995-2019’. Because of Myanmar’s revolution of EIA legislation approved, as a result, the new ESIA process for the Dawei road link was taken place towards sustainable Dawei road link. Three years ago, Ashley authored the Design of Dawei road link. “It is very hard to know where the road will go exactly, access to data is limited and most of the data are from global sources”, Ashley. The key message from Ashley’s presentation is to promote a strategic assessment of the Dawei road link project.

‘Does Dawei road link exists?’ is the key question asked. The project was taken off in 1007, 2010, 2015, and 2018. EIA was carried out from 2011-2013. Now it is new in 2019. “They (the EIA) are technical, hard to understand and full of errors”, according to Ashley. Jan 2015, the access road is an existing road to be upgraded in January 2015, according to TEAM Consultant Study in 2018. Approximately 36 k.m. overlap with the road built by the Japanese during World War II. 2018 ESIA declared that the access road is still uncompleted.

1995-2004 Six foot road constructed. In 1996 Italian-Thai development signed an MoU to build a deep seaport at Dawei.

2004-2010 Pre-construction feasibility study. NESAC confirmed that the highway was a joint venture between Thai contractors and Burmese military authorities.

2010-2013 Construction of the access road concurrently with impact assessment for a 4-lane road link. ITD hired Chulalongkorn University Environmental Research Institute in September 2011 to do EIA. Contentions around poor construction and planning of the road link. The first EIA stated impacts had already occurred and with little compensation for the villagers themselves. No submission of the EIA was ever mad to Myanmar’s authority.

2013-2015 project restructuring and a new ESIA for a 2-lane road. ITD was removed from the project. 2014 submit a new proposal for 2-lane road, Memorandum of Intent was signed with Myanmar and Thailand. TEAM consultant was hired in 2015 to undertake EIA.

2015-2018 protracted the ESIA process. JICA and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry released separated studies on the development of 4-lane road.

Approximately 300 photos of constructions were taken and mapped out to show the exact condition of the road. The most current 2 lane road design is the 2018 ESIA is based on preliminary designs by the ITD completed in 2014. In 2018 ESIA show different alignments and station point systems on land use drawing, deviation plans from the existing access road, bridge locations drawings. All of these use different Coordinates and Deviations, which is messy. The info like this cannot establish the claim for the road location and mark on the grounds. The villagers said they are confused by the red, yellow and white poles marking. There are large increases in deforestation within 500 meters of the access road during the after the construction was found.

World Wildlife Fund for Nature-WWF surveyed important species in the Corridor in 2018. There are six endangered species are listed, if the road link is going ahead. Continued environmental degradation and loss of forests are currently found in the Dawei road link during WWF’s research. The research is to reinforce the accountability of Dawei road link. Strategic analysis of Dawei road and the sustainability of the road is the cornerstone of the Dawei project.

Second speaker: Saya Frankie Abreu, Tenesserim River& Indigenous People Network (TRIP Net) and representatives from impacted communities

When I listened to the communities, mostly they talk about their concerns regarding sustainable livelihoods. “What will happen after the road link is built, we don’t know” “we are worried about our livelihoods if the project is going ahead’. The bulldozers wiped out betel nuts plantations without asking the communities. Their farmlands are destroyed, without compensation or any remedies. The villagers heard only about the positive side of the project, not negative impacts. The community’s rights to access to information and participation is violated.

“We don’t know how to survive if we move to new places. I wonder if the current residents of the new place will accept me there. Because it is all about competing use of the natural resources”. “If my trees are gone, my life is gone. The communities depend on fruit orchards and betel nut plantations”.

The government asked if the villagers need development or not. The communities reply with yes we need development that respects our lives, dignity and sustainability. Although the company gives compensation, the villagers concerned that those are not the prices that the communities agreed or it is not fair and just. Most people are asked, “if they agreed with the project”? Agree or not is not the answer to the question. It is all about following best practices and certain standards. “Please follow the same standards that you do in your country (host country is Thailand)”. The rapid economic process is impossible without painful adjustment. The country that just passes through a democratic transition such as Myanmar may have to rethink strategically about the direction of development that they are taking.

Pati Saw Ke Doeh, a representative from the impacted communities addressed key damages to the community’s farmlands and livelihoods since the road link is embarked.

“We are worried about the road link as it causes a lot of damage”. In summer 2010, when the project started. The local communities were not consulted, not receiving any info about the road link project. ‘We cannot agree with the project that causes significant damages to our communities such as destroying our farmlands. ‘We seek to be part of the decision-making process and have a say in this road link project’.

U Ye Aung from Kalitgyi villager where the road will be cut through. “We are Indigenous local communities who rely on the natural resources and livelihoods are mainly land-based”. “Our farmlands and orchards including betel nuts farms are all destroyed. We are eager to understand where are those bulldozers from and why they came without noticing us”.

“The bulldozers destroyed our betel nuts farms completely”. “We organize among us and seek discussion and information from our leaders and networks involved. In 2013, the project suspended. ITD left. But there has not been any rehabilitation of our land, nor compensation”. “We heard that the road will be resumed soon. But we don’t know exactly where exactly this 2-lane is going and heading” “It seems to overlap with the access road at the moment. “We continue to demand from relevant stakeholders both government and the developer that please fix the problems from the access road link and land grabbing first before proceeding with the new 2 lane road link”. “If the project is going to resume, what kind of mechanism in place to solve the problem and address our concerns”. How to balance between mainstream development and maintaining our livelihoods and culture? It is a key challenge because we don’t see this balance in Dawei road link project like now.

Third speaker: Teerachai Sanjaroenkithaworn, Mekong Butterfly “Dawei road link: hidden cost of impacts and affected communities solving mechanisms/measure”

Teerachai focus on hidden cost and recommendations. The road link project was initiated as part of the Dawei SEZ- the motorway and 8-lane built according to Thailand’s Highway standards as per the Department of Thailand’s Highways. The focus was on the 4-lane road link at the moment due to massive resistance from the communities. The project size is downscale to 4-lane instead of an 8-lane scenario.

ITD is in joint venture with Rojana Industrial Group from a company called MIE-Myanmar Industrial Estate. NEDA the main financier of the project gave loan and be part of the 2-lane Road Link Task Force. ITD has a duty to maintain the quality of the road. The 4.5 million Baht loan is the highest in history and it exceed over 2 million Baht benchmark according to NEDA’s regulation. The Technical loan assessment will be completed in end of September.

Since the complaint submission to NHRCT and the Cabinet issued the resolution dated 16 May 2016, there is an expectation that ITD as a Thai investor follows certain standards or practices as they operate in Thailand (as a home country). Kamoethway communities are impacted by the road link- from Bhu Nam Rhon to Dawei SEZ and cutting through Kamoethway’s forest (whereby community’s forests been found) and fisheries conservation zone and community’s farmlands. The research by Mekong Butterfly was undertaken at Kamoethway. The main finding include:

  • Land seized happened in the village including land grabbing, and a lack of compensation to land loss. Due to a lack of land titles, there are obstacles and hurdles that the communities have to go through to register their lands or attaining certificates. Compensation was claimed by the company to be preliminary provision but most of the villagers who loss their lands and their farmlands destroyed, they haven’t got any compensation.
  • Water resources pollution has taken place due to sedimentations and dusts falling into the river and creeks where communities utilize for domestic consumption
  • The project is going ahead while the EIA was completed after the project decision which is unacceptable.
  • The ecosystem that cut off by the road is also damaged. The fisheries conservation zone and area found for rich fisheries is damaged.
  • Livelihood loss and contamination of water resources (and cost of buying drinking water) are not taken into consideration while calculating compensation.
  • Transportation expense that is spent on finding drinking water and food is not taken into consideration for compensation. All of these costs are hidden- the expense increase for the communities to get access to food and water resources.
  • The loss of betel nut farms is approximately 2 million Kyat. If the betel nuts are not destroyed, it would give huge benefits to the communities in terms of sell.
  • One of the community we have interviewed told us that he has received compensation. It is a cash lump-sum only and it is so little. If the betel nuts are kept and maintained, it will feed our households endless to even our younger generations.
  • The impacted communities raised huge concerns regarding the road link as it destroyed their farmlands and livelihood. They mostly disagree with the project. Voices from the communities include “If the road is going to go ahead it should cut through other areas which is not their farmlands”. It may cut through the city directly instead of through community’s farmlands. If the government already approved the project, we cannot withstand and we could only ask for fair compensation and remedies”.
  • Key recommendations and messages include:
    • If the project is going ahead, a proper consultation with the impacted communities needed and the consultation about fair and just compensation.
    • There should be the environmental mitigation and rehabilitation plan developed before proceeding with the road link project.
    • There should be strategic environmental impact assessment and follow through Myanmar’s regulation and rule-of-law
    • The government should respect FPIC principle and seek FPIC from the communities, and respect Indigenous rights.
    • The developer should respect the ceasefire agreement and stop doing anything such as the development that may hamper the peace process.
    • The recommendations will form the basis for Task Force to proceed with their monitoring the road link.

Fourth Speaker: Regan Pairojmakakit, Transboundary Coordinator Thailand-Myanmar, WWF “Biodiversity along the Dawei Road and Measures to protect it”.

As WWF’s focus is on wildlife and environment, it doesn’t meant that the social issues are not important. We recognized environment security and basic human rights, with basic land tenures. If these elements are not taken into account, it is hard to secure environmental protection.

The Dawei is nested in the global landscape Dawna-Tenasserim Landscape or DTL. The Tanintharyi nature reserves, community’s protected areas and national park are constituting this DTL landscape. The size is like the size of Cambodia. The stronghold of tigers and Asian elephants in Thailand and SEAsia is mostly in this DTL area. DTL is a phenomenal area for Cats, leopards. The main corridor for wildlife is in DTL area. Kangkrajan-Kuiburi forest of Thailand depends on connectivity and fragmentation of forest in DTL region especially Myanmar.

WWF undertook camera trapping to see what is going on in the DTL area. Caught on camera are leopards, pangolins, black leopard, Asian black bears, and diverse birds. It is quite unusual to see high-level predators in the same area that quite impacted by the road link project. Some species are migratory in nature and they migrate through the DTL forest corridors.

WWF hired the assessment company to assess the whole area to measure the scope of impacts by the road links. The impact analysis is insufficient from WWF analyses the Road Design document and the key findings include:

  • The survey technique is poor. The Design document is inefficient in so many ways.
  • The knowledge about impacts and how animals may migrate through the forests are very poor, and wildlife crossing.
  • The project design document does not the built-in area for wildlife crossing in the DTL Landscape.
  • The location that currently identified is facing huge sedimentation and it may not suitable for road construction.
  • It needs to be a long term perspective, what various stakeholders want to see from this road in the timeframe of 50 years down the line.
  • WWF’s proposal: protect the key wildlife, keep Kamoethway’s community forest, and make sure that the communities are included in the design of this road. Wildlife crossing should be built to aid wildlife migration and crossing within the DTL landscape. We promote the road that responds to environmental concerns. Best practices include seeking FPIC from the impacted communities and clear measures to mitigate environmental impacts established.

What Regan just present is the biological perspective of the road link and impacts that should be included in the design of the road link.

Fifth Speaker: Naruemon Thachumpon, Faculty of Political Sciences, Chulalongkorn University “Transnational Politics, Local communities and Human Security in Ethnic-controlled Area: A case study of the Dawei road link project in Tanintharyi region”

Thai governments in the past have placed priorities for the road link project. The project has been transformed from the private such as ITD into government-to-government or G2G which NEDA of Thailand is involving in giving loans.

Last April, the design include previous current access road and new lanes heading directly to SEZ. The question asked who benefit from this road link? Our study from the political sciences perspectives, we see the government’s agenda from the angle of conflict transformation. We have seen development project as a tool to exacerbate conflict and pushing the communities out.

The finding argument include:

  • The military brotherhood between Myanmar and Thailand is still deeply rooted. Although in Thai side, there is a new government, but there hasn’t been any modernization in thinking about development project. Development agenda such as the road link is very high on the agenda. Voluntary repatriation of refugees is undertaken- especially Bhu Nam Rhon and Mae Sod. Approximately 1000 people has been set back. The road is built for the purpose of fixing refracting economy in Thailand. The SEZ at border areas such as Dawei, Maesod is high on agenda as it is the area where labour crossing from Myanmar is taking place.
  • The role of NEDA in Thailand is to confirm the policy of Thai government to seek legitimacy on economic and border-related issues with implications for local people. NEDA provides seed money just to kick start the project.
  • NLD government of Myanmar and Thai’s government is like military civil hybrid model. The road link project is the instrument to fast track peace process towards union peace accord. Dawei SE is central to the conflict between Myanmar government and KNU. Political agreement or economic development comes first or hand-in-hands.
  • Displacement is not caused by war but caused by the development project for the national economy of the country. Development induced displacement is manifesting in the border towns between Myanmar and Thailand.
  • The road link is central to the politics of governmentality- such as controlling of border lines and natural resources; how the government order to move people out from the area, and diminish KNU’s power in the areas.
  • Coexistence strategy developed by the Myanmar government via the development projects. During ceasefire, KNU has the predominant role to play and place demands. However, in this coexistence strategy, it means different stakeholders have to rely on each other in order to proceed with the project while the current power of controlling the area is evaded.
  • When G2G is taken place in the case of Dawei road link, we have seen the role of KNU is diminishing compared to the loan provider such as NEDA. When the project is halted due to CSO’s concerns, we have seen complaint submission to NHRCT but we don’t see a complaint submission to Myanmar human rights commission.
  • It is a burden for Thai military-civil hybrid government to prove that they can fix and progressed Thailand’s national economic problems. So development project with G2G in nature like this will be used as a tool to push for mass economic development.
  • We have seen small to medium enterprises of Thai investors that go out to invest in the border areas but with the proceeding of Dawei road link project, it demonstrates how the whole economy of Thailand will be largely based from mega projects outside Thailand.

Q&A and Discussion:

  1. We have heard that complaint on the Dawei road link project submitted to NEDA and NHRCT, what are key recommendations from NEDA and NHRCT?

Teerachai, Mekong Butterfly: NEDA has recognized its role as a main stakeholder in this road link project. But they don’t tasked to provide compensation to the impacted communities. NEDA doesn’t give more information about the impact assessment of the road link. NEDA said this is a small project only 2-lane, and it doesn’t connect with Dawei SEZ, which contradicts with the public information.

Narumon, Chula: I have met NEDA representative in other meetings. They said they see mega project link Dawei road link connecting with Dawei SEZ. Their jobs is develop the project while Thai government has to clear the land and make way for the project. “We haven’t seen any role of JICA in this road link project much compared to NEDA” “The second public hearing will be taken place by end of the year, so this is the opportunity for communities and CSOs to lobby and influence”

  1. NEDA’s role as a loan provider

NEDA has seen itself as rising regional donor such as those that compared to JICA. It is important process to consider how the CSOs is engaging with NEDA.

Ashley: If we go back to the first EIA. 2015 Myanmar approved the new EIA legislation, so it slows down the EIA of Dawei road link project. We should watch and see what come out from the report next month, contracted by NEDA. We should remind them of how problematic previous assessment has been.

Franky: Myanmar is one of the lease developed countries in SEAsia. When Myanmar gov made the announcement that the Dawei SEZ and Deep Sea Port should be going ahead, Myanmar has made it clear that it is the development agenda that push the country’s economy forward. While there are resistance from the communities, but with the new democratic system in place community’s voices should be heard, but in reality they are not. The new election is coming on 2020 so it is the time of promises and buying votes. We have seen that the project development like the road link is part of the promises.

  1. Is there any community and CSOs in Thailand who would like to work on this issue? Which is monitoring the impact assessment and support community’s for seeking remedies.

If the problem of the communities are not solved, what would be the next step for NEDA? Are they proceeding with the project regardless? Should NEDA make a recommendation? NEDA has established a safeguard policy which is a new movement. From the villager’s perspective, who pay compensation for previous project which is the road link made by the ITD?

  1. How do we define development? The question asked from a community representative. How do you divide yourself?

You want to take side of the development or you want to against it? The resistance part may not happen if we are not directly impacted by the project. “Do we want development?” we were asked so many times. From our experiences dealing with the development project such as those in Dawei, we do not against development and we have seen the project is important. However, the project that violate our right and destroy our livelihoods should not be going ahead. If it is going ahead, we should get a fair and just compensation. The communities like us who are suffering and scarifying for the project do not get anything in terms of the benefit. The development that we would like to see is the development that clearly benefit anyone and all stakeholders get benefits from the project. The investor that respect the right of the citizens and project impact communities should be promoted.

Franky: I have been asked how you stop this project. It is multinational companies, and big money. So it is not about stopping the project, it is all about lesson learned and making frightening stories and demanding for greater accountability from the project investor. We are human being we need development. But the development should not cause any burdens and problems to the local communities; and the development that respect community’s rights to livelihoods.

0 comments on “Thailand and Dawei Special Economic Zone: Road Link to Kilometer Zero (for Disaster?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: