RANGOON — Lawmakers approved initial development of the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone on Tuesday, with over 400 MPs voting in favour of the 4,289-acre project, the first phase of which the government hopes to begin next year.
Incumbent lawmaker Ba Shein of the Arakan National Party told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he, alongside several MPs from the National League for Democracy (NLD), voted against the proposal. Of 511 MPs that voted in Burma’s Union Parliament, 424 MPs gave their approval, with 23 voting against and other MPs abstaining.
Ba Shein, who is on a parliamentary committee monitoring the SEZ in Arakan State, expressed disappointment at the legislature’s decision to give the green light to the zone.
“Although I was involved in the SEZ monitoring committee, I know very little [about the project]. They always told me good things but when they [proceed], it’s quite different to what they said,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Ba Shein said that the result of a long-delayed tender for the project was likely to be announced on Wednesday.
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.
Last week, Burma’s president Thein Sein weighed in, calling for the tender results to be swiftly announced “so that the next government can continue to implement the project.”
Around 85 percent of investment into the Kyaukphyu SEZ is slated to come from Chinese companies.
Ba Shein expressed concern over local grievances, citing cases of inadequate compensation for confiscated land and unresolved issues over the deep-sea port and constructed oil and gas dual pipelines.
Over 650 villagers, who will be affected once the project begins, gathered in Kyaukphyu on Sunday to urge the government to halt the project until it had provided employment opportunities and regional development programs.