• The 0-kilometre marker was placed at the edge of the Andaman Sea in Dawei at the beginning of the road leading from Dawei SEZ to Phu Nam Ron Pass in western Thailand
  • There was once a small fishing village that provided a primitive livelihood for fishing families by the Andaman Sea, but after three years have passed, they are gone. The village has been cleared, leaving only an empty beach waiting for the SEZ and t
  • Lives in Dawei have become uncertain as the project has been on and off since it was started in 2008.
  • Thein Bo Sik fishing village is 20 kilometres from downtown Dawei. Every day, fish is brought up from boats and taken to the beach for auction from early morning, around 4-7am. This demonstrates the richness of the area
  • Thein Bo Sik fishing village is 20 kilometres from downtown Dawei. Every day, fish is brought up from boats and taken to the beach for auction from early morning, around 4-7am. This demonstrates the richness of the area
  • Thein Bo Sik fishing village is 20 kilometres from downtown Dawei. Every day, fish is brought up from boats and taken to the beach for auction from early morning, around 4-7am. This demonstrates the richness of the area
  • Dawei residents earn a modest livelihood at Maung Ma Gan Beach, one of the popular beaches in Dawei that locals fear will be sacrificed in exchange for economic growth in the town.
  • Dawei residents earn a modest livelihood at Maung Ma Gan Beach, one of the popular beaches in Dawei that locals fear will be sacrificed in exchange for economic growth in the town.
  • Dawei residents earn a modest livelihood at Maung Ma Gan Beach, one of the popular beaches in Dawei that locals fear will be sacrificed in exchange for economic growth in the town.
  • Members of Thailand
  • A tin mine near the Myaung Pyo community has allegedly had impacts on the environment and public health of residents. A joint venture with a Thai company, it is another example of investments from Thailand in Dawei that have found to be exploiting lo
  • Some Myaung Pyo residents have begun suffering from skin rashes that developed after they were exposed to the water in the contaminated river for a period. They have also been involved in a land conflict with the mining company, with an ancestral gra
  • Residents of Mayin Gyi village and nearby areas who have lost their land to the SEZ handed a petition to members of Thailand

Doomed in Dawei

national March 19, 2017 01:00

By SAYAN CHUENUDOMSAVAD
Special to The Nation

45,739 Viewed

SAW KEB DOH of the ethnic-Karen Kalonehtar village in Myanmar’s Dawei district murmured constantly about fears that have been gripping the villagers’ hearts.



In 2012, Saw Keb Doh’s heart pounded heavily after learning about the ceasefire agreement the Karen National Union made with the Myanmar government. Like everyone in the village, the young Karen in his 30s felt a new hope for a better life as they would no longer fear the fighting and could have a chance to renew their peaceful lives in this hilly community.

But not long after that, the sound of bulldozers in the name of development of the nearby Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) rocked the villagers’ hearts again. They learned later that their village was designated as the site of the project’s reservoir that would supply industries down the mountain, and ever since, the villagers’ hearts have pounded again – with different beats of fears and uncertainty.

“They never told, never told us what they were doing,” Saw Keb Doh grumbled.

Despite on-and-off operations, Thai investments in this district, whether in the Dawei SEZ or tin mining, remain in force, cutting a swathe through communities sitting in the way of their progress – beyond the Tenasserim mountain range to the bright-blue waters of the Andaman.

Dawei SEZ, an extremely ambitious project with plans for a deep seaport, a large industrial estate, and overland transport links to Bangkok 350 kilometres to the east, began to be publicly accused of having impacts on the locals and their environment.

Dawei residents, including Kalonehtar villagers, accuse it of land grabs, insufficient or unpaid compensation for people’s relocation, the loss of heritage associated with land and communities, and, perhaps most important, lack of consultation with the residents.

Signed in 2008 between Italian-Thai Development and the Myanmar Port Authority, the Dawei project became the first Thai mega-investment in that part of Myanmar. Since then, the ambitious project has faced a rugged road. 

Work began two years later in 2010 before seeing the first developer withdraw from the project. The Thai government through the Finance Ministry’s Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) and the Myanmar government then stepped in, joining forces to set up a special project vehicle called Dawei SEZ Development to continue work on the project. 

It was not until 2015 that Japan decided to jump on to the boat, but still, there is not much to see in the 200-square-kilometre Dawei SEZ, except locals still crying foul over the impacts it has had.

Further away, a Thai tin-mining project has underlined the fact that Thai investments can cross the borders to have impacts in neighbouring countries. 

Zaw Moe Aung of Myaung Pyo village near the mine has seen the local river ruined, fish gone, the water poisoned, and his neighbours falling ill as a result. 

“We are not against the mine, but we just wish they would follow the right course and care for us a bit,” Zaw Moe Aung said.

The companies apparently paid little attention to the residents’ complaints until the Thai National Human Rights Commission stepped in. Finally, they are taking action.

NHRC member Tuenjai Deetes told the villagers after a recent visit to the Dawei SEZ and the mine by the commission that the she and her colleagues would report their problems to the Thai government and push for fair treatment.

Pakpoom Witantirawat, member of an NHRC subcommittee, said: “Imagine that Dawei rejected this heavy-industry development path, but [instead] chose to be a city based on education and tourism. We would see a very different life for the people here within 10 years. 

“Don’t get trapped – or make other people get trapped – in a notion that industry is the only choice in life. It’s absolutely not.”

 

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