Finally? Kyaukphyu SEZ Tender Due Next Week, Official Claims

RANGOON — Successful bidders for development of the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) will finally be announced next week, an official has claimed, after an opaque and long-winded tender process beset by delays.

After bidding for the project, slated to include an industrial zone, a housing estate and two deep sea ports on Ramree and Maday islands in western Arakan State, closed in November 2014, the announcement of successful proposals was originally expected the following January.

Aung Kyaw Than, joint secretary of the Kyaukphyu SEZ bid evaluation committee, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that winning bids would be revealed before the end of the year, with the body considering seven proposals.

His comments follow a directive from the president on Monday, as reported in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, that the tender results be swiftly announced “so that the next government can continue to implement the project.”

Thein Sein supports the systematic implementation of the zone, Aung Kyaw Than said, after he met with the president, alongside two other SEZ committee members, in Naypyidaw on Monday.

Local media have speculated for months that Chinese companies are among the successful project developers, a projection Aung Kyaw Than declined to confirm on Tuesday, citing confidentiality concerns.

“What I can say is that one Burmese company is in a consortium with a foreign company,” Aung Kyaw Than said, without revealing the prospects of that joint-bid.

As the president sought to push the project along on Monday, over 100 local civil society groups called for development of the SEZ to be suspended until the new National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government takes power in 2016.

The groups cited concerns over the project’s societal impacts, particularly for farmers, with the SEZ slated to be set up on over 4,000 acres of land.

Local groups that convened the All Arakan Civil Society Organization Forum (AACSOF) on Dec. 18-20 to discuss the project claimed that existing infrastructure, such as the completed oil and gas dual pipeline project, led to issues such as land confiscation and inadequate compensation that remain unresolved.

“When the next project starts again, people will worry about it. We demand a temporary halt to the project and are willing to discuss it with the new government,” said Tun Kyi, a forum participant on behalf of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association.

Aung Kyaw Than said he was aware of such criticism over past development, but stressed the Kyaukphyu SEZ heralded a new approach.

“What they mention is true, people suffered a lot, especially over land compensation and resettlement plans that were not properly implemented. We have heard about that whenever we go on field trips. [But] they have to know very clearly, the SEZ is a different project and a different approach,” he said.

The project will implement a resettlement plan according to World Bank guidelines, Aung Kyaw Than said, with successful companies also required to pay relocation fees and ensure sustainable livelihoods and suitable living conditions in relocation areas.

However, while noting civil society concerns, Aung Kyaw Than speculated as to whether “cronies” were partly behind community opposition to the economic zone.

“Crony groups would like to manipulate the [tender] process; they have been trying from the very beginning, which is why we are standing very firm,” he said. “I think they are trying to use CSOs and other peoples. In fact, [opposition] is not the voice of residents, it is the voice of a group of business cronies.”

The Kyaukphyu SEZ would cover 4,289 acres of land, with an industrial zone scheduled to be built across five village tracts in the first phase of the project next year.

Singapore’s CPG Corporation was awarded the US$2.5 million consulting contract for the project in March 2014.

Source: The Irrawaddy

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