Speaking about the Tavoy Deep Seaport after a fact-finding mission held a meeting on Friday in Sanghklaburi, Thailand, the chairman of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery said that he is worried about the environmental impact of building the massive seaport.
“We want to know how much opportunity the local Tavoy residents have to participate in the project,” said Beerawat Dheeraprasart. “We also want to know how many of the residents understand the impact on the environment. This is important because they are the ones who are going to suffer from it.”
The Foundation for Ecological Recovery reported that the Thai Investment Board has offered a substantial sum of money to build the Tavoy Deep Seaport and Industrial Zone. Meanwhile, some 4,000 megawatts of electrical power are required to run the industrial zone, which includes a coal facility that experts say will severely impact the environment and the livelihoods of local people.
“They are going to use water from the sea,” said Beerawat. “Then, the refuse water from the plants will be deposited back into the sea. All marine life will soon be extinct.”
The Burmese and Thai governments agreed in May 2008 a contract to begin construction on the Technical Zone in Tavoy Deep seaport.
The project is eight times bigger than the Map Ta Phut Industrial Zone in Rayong, Thailand, which is run by the same company, according to the Foundation for Ecological Recovery.
Map Tha Phut is estimated to have cost some 370 billion baht (US $10.5 billion) while the Tavoy project is estimated at around 303 billion baht ($8.6 billion).
Premsak Buawattana, another senior member of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery, said that he is worried for the Burmese people because they could suffer like the local people in Thailand who contracted cancer from poisoned water from the Map Ta Phut project.
“We believe that the Burmese people should know about the impact. This company has already operated in our country,” he said. “Rights activists halted the company working in Thailand. Now they are moving to Burma.”
The Sanghklaburi workshop included Mon human rights activists who reported that the lack of stability and democratic law in Burma is conducive to conditions in Tavoy that will lead to human rights abuses.
According to the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), about 20 local villages were evacuated by the Burmese authorities in order to make way for the construction of the deep seaport.
Nai Kasauh Mon, the director of the Mon Human Rights Foundation, said, “We are worried that the Burmese authorities will not give compensation to the villagers even though the Italian-Thai company may hand over money to the Burmese authorities.”
Hathuethai Kongkoan, another senior member of the Foundation for Ecological Recovery, said that they intend to educate the villagers about the impact on the environment that this project may have.
After they are aware of the impact, they will fight for their rights,” he said.