- Published: 25/07/2012 at 01:44 AM
Residents in Dawei are worried about a deep-sea port project which Myanmar President Thein Sein has promised to push along.Coordinator U Bo Bo Aung of the Dawei Development Association urged the Thai and Myanmar governments to disclose details of the three memoranda of understanding they signed on Monday to reaffirm their economic cooperation on the project.
"We do not know about the structures and components of the ministerial-level working group which was appointed by the two countries and which will implement the economic cooperation plans, particularly on achieving progress on the Thai-invested Dawei seaport and economic zone," U Bo Bo Aung said from Dawei.
He said there had not been adequate consultation and information-sharing with local people to keep them up to date on the development and its long-term impact on their livelihoods.
"Also, the project's costs and benefits and explanations on who will win or lose from the deal need to be more transparent," U Bo Bo Aung said.
Soe Aung, of the Forum for Democracy in Burma, doubted whether the projects supported by the MoUs would indeed help the people in the area.
"It is alarming that people's property, including farmland, is being confiscated by the government and its cronies, and people are being forced out of the area without proper compensation and consultation," said the Mae Sot-based activist.
Italian-Thai Development has committed to investing at least 300 billion baht in the first phase of the project, which would provide Thailand with a short cut to the Indian Ocean and Myanmar with a gateway to mainland Southeast Asia and Pacific Ocean trade routes.
The company is leading a consortium, which won the concession to develop the port.
The consortium was dealt a setback earlier this month when its main local partner, Max Myanmar, withdrew after it was unable to come up with its share of the capital.
U Bo Bo Aung said while the two governments' backing of the Dawei project should guarantee that international financial institutions would soon come to Italian-Thai's rescue, he still hoped that his government would also look at realities on the ground.
"People talk about positive impacts like job opportunities, but the local people here are more skilled in farming than in working at deep-sea ports and industrial estates," U Bo Bo Aung said.
"They should be trained in skills that will enable them work in the new business environment before imposing the projects on the local people."
Thein Sein's visit to Thailand was widely reported by the media, although political observers commented that his delegation to Thailand was different than the one he had taken to other countries such as Singapore and China, where he was accompanied by more businessmen.
Thein Sein's visit to Thailand is aimed at strengthening Myanmar's bond with Thailand, its second-largest trading partner after China.
Ko Maung, an Asean expert based in Yangon, said the visit is also important as Thailand is accommodating millions of Myanmar migrant workers and refugees.
The analyst said Thein Sein's ability to deliver political and economic reform in Myanmar was being hampered by unpopular ministers, five or six of who would need to be changed.
"When he returns home, he has to deal with his new vice-president [Myint Swe], who is supported by the wife of former president Than Shwe," he said.
"Thein Sein has several battles to fight [at home] while he makes promises outside the country."
Original Link : http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/304104/dawei-residents-worry-over-port-project