Kyaukphyu SEZ tenders continue despite protests

The final tender results for the Kyaukphyu special economic zone (SEZ) project will be announced this month, despite calls from civil society groups for the project to be postponed, a member of the tender selection committee told The Myanmar Times.

The tender selection committee expects to the ground-leveling process to start in February, so that companies selected to develop the SEZ can see the project being implemented under the current government, U Aung Kyaw Than, associate secretary of the tender selection committee, said.

His comments came days after more than 107 Rakhine State civil society groups met at a three day forum, and demanded that the project be suspended. The forum, which was held from December 18 to 20, said the project has not been carried out in accordance with the wishes of local people. It called for industrial zones and projects to be implemented with transparency, responsibility and accountability, and in a way that reflects the desires of local people and civil society groups.

The government has set aside 1708 hectares for the zone, parliament heard on December 3, which will include two deep-sea ports, a 978-hectare industrial zone and a 494-hecatre high-end housing project.

U Tun Kyi, a representative of civil society groups in Rakhine, said they would accept a continuation of the project under the new government, if they approved of that government’s policies. They have demanded the project be suspended under the current government because of a lack of transparency in tender process, he added.

“Transparency has been weak,” he said. “Then there are problems concerning farmland. The project is also weak in providing job opportunities for locals. We want to negotiate this project with the new government. That’s why we’ve demanded the project be suspended during the tenure of the current government.”

But U Aung Kyaw Than said the tender selection committee would implement the project under the current government. The demands for postponement lacked adequate facts, he added.

“They [civil society groups] should say exactly why they want to suspend these projects. They should point to weaknesses, and their demands should be reasonable,” he said. “But we can’t see these qualities. Nor do we know who sponsored the forum and the forum’s intention. There’s no transparency in their activities. That’s why we think there might be some dishonesty. Moreover, these projects are the concern of the government, which will decide if it should proceed or not.”

The tender selection committee has showed its master-plan for the project to the public and locals, who have been informed of the details and accept and like the project, he added.

“In showing the public the project we’ve got approval from many people,” he said. “We didn’t persuade them. Many locals said they approve of the project. We have been planning the project since 2011 and gone systematically step by step,” he said.

He added that the project would never cause locals to suffer losses under any government’s tenure, because it was drawn up based on the needs of business people, the demands of locals and suggestions from experts.

“We’ve listen to locals since we started the project,” he said. “We included the suggestions of experts and investors too. We can guarantee that the project won’t cause people any loss under any government’s tenure.”

There are discrepancies over what plans the government has presented to local people, however. Myanmar companies will be invited to create joint ventures with foreign companies for the Kyaukphyu special economic zone. But representatives of civil society groups said they attended a presentation that indicated Myanmar companies would be restricted to a 15 percent share of such ventures. This low level of ownership for Myanmar companies is something local investors object to, U Tun Kyi added. The tender selection committee, however, denies this 15pc figure.

Source: Myanmar Times

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