Govt Tables Kyaukphyu SEZ Plans in Parliament

By Nyein Nyein 4 December 2015

Burma’s government is seeking parliamentary approval to begin the first phase of the Kyaukphyu special economic zone (SEZ) in Arakan State, lawmakers said on Friday.

Myint Thein, deputy minister for Rail Transportation and head of the Kyaukphyu SEZ management committee, outlined the long-mooted project, billed as the country’s western economic gateway, to Lower House lawmakers on Thursday.

MPs were told to register by Monday for debate on the project in Parliament next week, with the government seeking the legislature’s approval to use the land earmarked for the zone.

The Kyaukphyu SEZ would “be set up on 4,289 acres of land,” Myint Thein informed lawmakers, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar. The project is slated to include an industrial zone, a housing estate and two deep sea ports, on Ramree and Maday islands respectively, according to the deputy minister.

Tender bids for development of the zone closed last November, with a total of 12 proposals submitted by one local and 11 international firms. However, the opaque tender and evaluation process has been beset by delays, with no successful bidder yet announced, despite official assurances that the process was nearing completion.

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

Ba Shein, an Arakan National Party (ANP) lawmaker, said the government should explain the project’s impact on local residents and ensure they are properly informed.

“Now we do not know anything. What will be done for the residents? Will they need to move? How will the compensation be done? And so forth,” Ba Shein said.

“It looks like the current government just wants to go ahead with the project as planned, rather than for the region’s benefit… It seems they want certain companies to have a go.”

Dual oil and gas pipelines—the latter of which became operational in 2013—which run from Kyaukphyu overland to China’s southwest Yunnan province, attracted the ire of locals over issues including displacement, inadequate compensation and environmental degradation.

Myint Thein told the Lower House on Thursday that the management committee had been transparent in their dealings on the project and had heeded public opinion.

“The boundary posts for the project were set to avoid the villages,” he said. “And the project has been implemented in accordance with current laws, bylaws and regulations.”

The Global New Light of Myanmar quoted Myint Thein as telling lawmakers on Thursday that a team had been founded “to monitor the possible social, economic and environmental impacts the construction might have on the area.”

According to the SEZ management committee, the project’s industrial zone will be built in the first phase of the project in a plot 8.5 km south of Kyaukphyu across five village tracts from February 2016.

Banyar Aung Moe, a lawmaker with the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), said “honesty is the key” to successfully implementing the project.

“The deputy minister’s explanation was not that detailed, so we will listen to other lawmakers’ presentations [next week] and give our vote,” he said.