Company Accused of Bribing, Misleading Locals to Build Coal-Fired Power Plant

By Moe Myint 18 October 2016

RANGOON — Questions were raised in the Rangoon Division parliament about an unnamed company using underhanded methods to induce locals of Zweba Kone village, in semi-rural Kyauktan Township on the outer fringes of the city, to consent to the building of a coal-fired power plant.

Daw Thet Thet Mu, the lawmaker representing Kyauktan Constituency-2 for the National League for Democracy, told the divisional legislature on Tuesday that the company’s efforts to bribe and mislead locals—apparently carried out under the radar of local authorities—had been going on since early March.

She said that there were serious concerns over the likely impact of the power plant on the environment and rural livelihoods in the village, and asked whether the Rangoon Division government would allow it to proceed.

Speaking with the Irrawaddy, Daw Thet Thet Mu refused to name the company, purportedly because the project is at a very early stage, but said that she had not recognized the name; the companies’ delegates spotted in the locality were Indian and Chinese, she claimed, adding to suspicion that it is foreign-owned.

Daw Thet Thet Mu told the legislature that the company had recently donated 4.5 million kyats (US$3,560) for fresh water excavation in the village. During the donation ceremony, 150 villagers were asked to lend their signatures to paper forms written in English signaling their support for the power plant. Although most of the villagers could not understand English, some unwittingly signed the consent forms, she said.

She added that that “the company’s representatives convinced the villagers that they would share 2 percent of the power plant’s profits with them,” and that they would construct a new bridge linking Kyauktan with Thanlyin Township, allowing easier access to the city.

She said that more educated villagers had expressed deep worry that the power plant may pollute the soil, air and water in the village, ruining the farmland on which the villagers depend.

The Divisional Minister of Electricity, Industry and Transport Daw Nilar Kyaw responded on behalf of the Rangoon Division government, saying they would not allow the coal-fired power plant to go ahead.