Myanmar: Locals not consulted on resettlement plan for Thilawa SEZ project, says DRDO

Local residents who will be displaced by the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project say they were forced to sign the SEZ resettlement action plan without knowing its contents.

“They [Thilawa SEZ management committee] ordered us to sign the RAP. But we don’t know what data is included in the RAP,” a local resident said at a press conference concerning human rights in the compound of the Thilawa SEZ project, held at the Myanmar Journalists Network’s Yangon office on October 10.

Construction for the Thilawa SEZ project will begin in early 2014, according to the Thilawa SEZ management committee chairperson Sett Aung.

“We are going to relocate the villages to Myaingtharyar ward beside Thanlyin-Kyauktan motor road,” said Sett Aung. “The roads are now being constructed there. Then we have to put up fences and construct the houses. Upon completion of the roads and houses, we will displace the locals.” The Thilawa SEZ spokesperson added that each local would be given a plot of land 25 feet long and 50 feet wide and a house 12 feet wide and 16 feet long.

Sett Aung said that most of the locals have already signed the RAP based on the SEZ plan. But critics say the RAP process was conducted without proper consultation.

“If the authorities are preparing a resettlement action plan, they have to do so together with the locals. Then, they [authorities] must discuss the plan with the residents and show all of the project plans. Only then must signatures be sought, as to whether or not the locals will transfer their rights. But the locals didn’t know the RAP,” said Bo Bo of the Dawei Region Development Organization.

The Thilawa SEZ will be implemented in two phases, with vehicle assembly and electronics factories built in the first and garment and foodstuff factories in the second.