Farmers Protest Against Daewoo in Kyaukphyu

By Moe Myint 4 June 2015

RANGOON — About 150 farmers assembled in Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, on Wednesday to protest against South Korean Daewoo International for its role in an ongoing land dispute concerning more than 60 acres of ruined paddy fields near the site of the Shwe gas project.

The protesters said Daewoo neglected to speak directly with farmers about compensation for damaged crops and fields, claiming the company outsourced the responsibility to sub-contractors who are not meeting locals’ demands.

One of the organizers, local activist Wai Khin, said the demonstrators received permission from the regional government to walk from Malakyun village to Kan Kotaw Pagoda and then on to Daewoo’s local headquarters. Police in Kyaukphyu confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the protest was permitted and that police provided security at the rally.

Villagers said that earlier this year, Daewoo met with local farmers and proposed compensation of 1.5 million kyats per acre of damaged land. Soon after the meeting, protesters said, Daewoo hired Parami Energy Group of Companies as a sub-contractor, offering affected farmers a similar deal, which they accepted.

But the demonstrators said Parami later changed course, offering only10 percent of the land value if farmers could prove that at least 30 percent of their property had been independently restored. Farmers rejected the deal, calling the amount “unacceptable.”

Protestor Khin Nu said Daewoo’s compensation scheme did not adequately repay farmers whose land had been ruined by waste. Villagers said that up to three feet of detritus had been dumped on farmland by the company since the project commenced, causing long term damage to the soil.

“We only got compensation for damaged crops,” she said, explaining that the income lost due to damaged lands was irrecoverable.

Parami Group was not immediately available for comment, though a representative of Daewoo told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the demonstration was organized by agitators who are “against” the company.

“The Parami company and villagers had already reached an agreement,” said Khin Than, a spokesman for Daewoo. “But one of the villagers who is against us led the protest.”

A community-based organization called the Kyaukphyu Social Network said it was the third such protest in the last four years. Solidarity protests had been held against the Shwe gas project in other parts of the world, but public opposition to the project was all but unthinkable just a few years ago.

In late May, Kyaukphyu villagers participated in a similar demonstration against a Daewoo-backed coal-fired power plant in the underdeveloped port town.

The Shwe gas project is one of Burma’s biggest and most controversial developments, comprising parallel gas and oil pipelines that connect the Bay of Bengal with Yunnan, China. Daewoo owns a 51 percent share in offshore gas extraction and sales for the project, as per a 2000 agreement with state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).