Covering 250 square kilometers, the Dawei Special Economic Zone is slated to push out 21 villages including 3,977 households and 32,274 people. They are forced to leave behind their houses, farmland, fishing ground along the Andaman coasts.
Some will be relocated to a resettlement area; some will be left at their own devices. They shall become homeless loosing their livelihood and their future.
The conclusion was reached after my participating in the trip for Thai media by Transborder News,’ sponsored by Thailand’s Health Promotion Foundation. We were there to explore “another truth”, something that we shall not discover from mainstream media featuring ‘positive’ news put out by either the Italian-Thai Development Public Co., Ltd. (ITD) or the Phue Thai Coalition.
On 31 May 2013, we started off at Pita, a fishery village close to the Dawei Deep Sea Port. About 100 years old, the village is located between two rivers flowing down from Tanintharyi Mountain and emptying in Andaman. It is home to 150 households or 700 people whose livelihood is mainly dependent on marine resources.
Coconut, cashew nut, beetle nut and tamarind orchards scatter around the area. The produce is sold in the city of Muang Makan. At best, it could fetch each farmer 700,000 kyat/month (around 20,000 baht/month). During the lobster season, the income is even higher.
Studying the documents, we found Pita is located outside the industrial zone. Nevertheless, the local villagers were told that their land shall be confiscated. Thus, they become confused, and though they do not have to move out from here, the construction of the temporary sea port for transporting construction material, has already destroyed coral reefs where lobsters inhabit.
Pita villagers live entirely off fishery. Having to move elsewhere, they will certainly see a demise of their livelihood.
Teng Hai, a 60 year old core villager, reiterated with the media group from Thailand that they shall move to nowhere. They do not want any compensation (though it is offered to them). But we are willing to accept any help to develop our community including electricity, water and access to school for their children.
After saying good bye to the villagers in Pita, we went to explore the temporary jetty built for transporting construction materials and to the site where the Dawei Deep Sea Port is slated to be built while preparation is being done.
One fishery village is located here. Chakham used to host 34 families, now only five or six families remain in defiance of the bulldozers which may potentially sweep them down the sea.
A villager at Chakham told us that they got no compensation from the authority. The government claimed this area was a slum, even though the villagers have lived here since their ancestral time. He took us to see an ancient well which indicates that this community is old, and not a slum.
Previously, they have received notices informing them to move out, three times already. The authority even threatened to report them to the police. But the villagers insisted on staying here, until they receive compensation and are resettled.
The affected villagers became very active after they had learned a group of media people from Thailand was there. In a matter of minutes, they could mobilize and joined our group to explore the project site. En route, we found the workers were blasting the mountain to pave the way for the grids line poles. Gigantic trucks brought the smashed rocks to fill up the farmland. More than 100 houses have been built by ITD for the relocated villagers. But the villagers refused to move away.
Entering Bawa, we were greeted by dozens of local villagers who were there to give us information they hoped we could pass on to ITD. They asked ITD to send their staff to negotiate with the villagers, rather the local officers. It should help stem any confusion. Previously, information espoused by different people seems to differ. While the former ITD staff told the villagers that they would be given compensation, but the new batch of staff, after the announcement made by Thailand to become part of the special purpose vehicle (SPV), refused to give any compensation.
Of late, two days ago, the Project Supervisor was there to ask for an answer from the villagers. The Village Headman informed him that more than 300 households shall move out only after they receive the compensation. But the Supervisor told them that his company has already purchased the land from the government and shall not compensate the villagers.
It was so confusing that, Ven. U Keh Lama, abbot of the village temple, came out to say that “those people who lose their houses, their farmland, and their trees, shall want to have compensation.
His voice, facial expression and eyes showed how much hope he placed on the Thai media group to ask for justice and their right to live sufficiently from the Thai government.
He spoke as “owner of the land”, not an “outsider”.
We also hope to expose the truth in Thai public so that people are informed that some Thai investors are crossing the border to exploit and abuse fellow human beings in other country.
Translated from Matichon Daily, June 11 2013 By Pakphum Pongphai