Complaints by PAPs of the Thilawa SEZ Zone A Project
Currently, some PAPs complain that there is a water problem in the new resettlement place. As 5 underground water hand-pumps had been installed and 2 wells had been constructed, there should not be any problem related to water. However, after the investigation, it was found that (3) numbers of underground water hand-pumps were broken and it is planned to get them fixed immediately. It was also complained by some PAPs that the wells were new so that they doubted they could drink that water. Hence, they said they had to fetch drinking water from an old well which is located about 2 minute walk from the new resettlement place. In their original place, there was no water supply, there was no underground water hand-pumps, and the well was far away from them. Hence, they have much easier and improved access to water in the new resettlement place. However, it is planned have further improvements in the area of water supply.
Longer distance to workplace:
Some PAPs complain that the new resettlement place is farer from their work place (i.e. the MITT port) compared to their old place. That is true; however, the new relocation place is just 3-5 km away from their old place, and is much better and could get better price as it is much closer to the main road, and now they have the land ownership in the new place while they had no legal ownership in their old place. However, in order to solve this problem, it is planned that ferry trucks could run between the relocation place and the MITT port.
The assistance package includes the guarantee for the employment of PAPs. However, the majority of the PAPs (i.e. 90%) have very low education level (i.e. below the primary level). However, it is agreed with the developer that appropriate trainings to be provided and priority to be given to the PAPs for employment. Some PAPs complained that they still did not have jobs. Since the project is just being implemented, it would still take some times to have manufacturing industries sprung up in the SEZ to open up more employment opportunities.. However, it is being negotiated with the company, which is currently conducting the initial construction works, to give priority to the PAPs for their current recruitment. The Thilawa SEZ Management Committee collected the information in February 2014 regarding the number of people (among the PAPs), who wanted to work. Only seven people expressed their interest to work in the project area. It is planned to secure the jobs for them at the construction site in the project area. In March 2014, Thilawa Managment Committee successfully secured jobs for interested PAPs; however, when the construction company said that they would be hired with the initial daily wage of Kyats 4,000 (which could be increased after one month in accordance with their performance), all PAPs, except one, left on the first day. The construction company said that it was only the initial pay (because they still did not know about their skills); overtime fees will also be additional income for them; and uniforms with all safety measure equipment and appropriate training would also be provided; however, most PAPs did not agree. In Myanmar, daily wage of a general construction worker is around Kyats 3,000-4,000.
No farm at the relocation place:
Some PAPs (minority) complained that they had farms in their original place. In the new relocation place, they no longer have farms. According to statistics, more than 60% of PAPs did not farm and were just odd-job workers. There were some PAPs who did farming; however, they did not have legal ownership of the land they farmed. Although they did not have legal ownership documents, they had been compensated with six-year crop value as a livelihood assistance.
Inadequate amount of compensation for construction of new house:
Some PAPs complained that they had to pay for the construction of their houses out of their own pockets in the new resettlement place because they said that the compensated amount for house construction was not enough. Actually, in the original place, almost all PAPs lived in houses that were walled either by bamboo mats or plastic sheets with the roof made of either thatches or palm leaves. The compensation amount for construction of a new house in the new relocation place is enough for the construction of wooden structured house with the aluminum GI sheet roof and also for the construction of fly-proof toilet. It is a much better and improved house condition compared to their original houses. Furthermore, the PAPs who used to have bigger houses were paid extra compensation amount for the number of square feet that was bigger than that of the house built in the new resettlement place. However, some PAPs constructed costly brick structured houses so that they needed to pay more out of their pockets. During the consultative meetings, it was just guaranteed that the condition of new houses in the new relocation area would be better than that of their original houses; however, it was never guaranteed that the new houses would be brick structured houses. If they wanted to build more costly brick structured houses, they had to pay extra costs out of their pockets.
Some PAPs have nothing left anymore:
Some PAPs sold their lands and houses built on them to other businessmen. After that they complained that they had nothing left. The Yangon Regional Government provided the PAPs with the replacement lands, houses built on them, among other assistance package; however, it could not possibly know if the PAPs kept them or sold to others.
Press release by Thilawa Social Development Group:
There was a press release issued by an unknown and unregistered group called Thilawa Social Development Group which claims that it was an appeal made by Thilawa villagers to the JICA. It complained that Myanmar government failed to provide adequate compensation and replacement land. There is always a misunderstanding regarding the adequacy of the compensation amount and replacement land. Some people always want the amount of compensation far more than what it should be without having any concrete justification. The amount of compensation was calculated with proper facts and figures, respecting both local laws, regulations and international practices in the Resettlement Action Plan, which can be downloaded from this website. And they always think that they own the land without having an ownership deed. They think they own the land if they have some pieces of paper for tax payment. In fact, the ownership had been already transferred to the Construction Ministry since 1997. However, some PAPs still think they own the land and they would want to get paid the land price. The Group also complained that the villagers were forced to move to the new relocation place. During the last consultative meeting, it was obvious and recorded by many local and foreign media that more than half of PAPs who attended the meeting stood up and said that they would agree. There might be some who had felt peer pressure to move; however, nobody was threaten to sign any agreement. Actually, in the agreement on which PAPs signed, it was clearly mentioned that the compensation package the signer agreed was not final, and the signer would be entitled to get more compensation if the rest PAPs (in the first-phased project area) would be able to negotiate the compensation more than what the signer had agreed. The Group also complained that the project information was not disclosed. Actually, there were eight consultative meetings held and the project information as well as the stages and information related to resettlement were disclosed. The signatures of PAPs, who attended these meetings were properly recorded in the presence of several local and foreign media. The Group complained that the PAPs in the new relocation place did not have access to education and health care. The PAPs never had access to education and health care in their old place. Access to education and health care became even better since the new place is next to the existing well-established community where education, health-care and social infrastructures are already in place, and it is much closer to the only main Yangon-Thanlyin-Kyauktan main road through which access to education and health-care is much easier. The Group also complained that PAPs did not have access to drinking water. Please read number 1 in which explanations are given regarding the complaints on water problem. The Group also said the PAPs lives became harder after 5 months of relocation because they had used up all compensation amount and Thilawa Management Committee could not find jobs for them as promised. Actually, Thilawa Management Committee has been encouraging them to work instead of using up their compensation. Some PAPs simply complain that the work place became farer (although it was only 3-5 km away from their old places) and do not want to work. Thilawa Management Committee provided training on driving, car repairing, carpentry, etc., and asked the list of people who needed jobs. Only a few people came up on the list. When the Thilawa Management Committee secured jobs for them with a Myanmar-Japan joint venture construction company, which won the tender for initial construction works, only very few PAPs accepted the job. Hence, Thilawa Management Committee (although it is not its responsibility) had trained the PAPs for new skills and had secured the jobs for them. However, only few PAPs accepted the job offers. Finally, the Group mentioned about concern of the people at Bay Pauk area. That area is not in the Thilawa SEZ project area and the relocation of them is not related to the Thilawa SEZ project. It is found that the Thilawa Social Development group has been complaining everything as the whole package without having any evidence and justification. However, it is the responsibility of the concerned authority to listen to these complaints and to fulfill the needs of PAPs as much as possible. Due to the complaints on water problem, Thilawa Management Committee (although the relocation and resettlement is not its responsibility) requested a contractor to fix some broken water hand-pumps on 25 April 2014. The five broken water hand-pumps were fixed on 1st April 2014. It is hoped that the civil society groups, and NGOs that include Thilawa Social Development Group, would effectively collaborate with Thilawa Management Committee and work together for the betterment of the PAPs instead of creating the environment filled with negativity, pessimism, criticism, distrust and blame that would lead to nowhere.
The Press Conference of the Padaetharmoe:
The press conference of the Padaetharmoe group, another unregistered NGO, was made on 27th April 2014. During the press conference, Daw Wei Wei Lwin of the Padaetharmoe even said that while there were people who were not statisfied with the compensation, there were also some who were satisfied. She even discriminated between the people who had lived there originally and those who came to the area only after 1997 although any of them do not have any ownership title. In case of those who had lived there originally, it could be even worse beause mostly all of them accepted the compensation in 1996 and received the new replacement place, transferred the ownership to the Ministry of Construction. The amont of compensation then was very small compared to current year, it was not that small at all because most people agreed that the amount was even higher than the then market price at that time. They did recognize that there were people who were satisfied with the compensation. However, during the press conference, nobody was sure that the people who were not satisfied were representative enough to speak on behalf of everybody.
The press release by Mekong Watch issued on 2 June 2014:
The press release by Mekong Watch, issued on 2 June 2014, stated that three residents from the Thilawa SEZ area delivered an objection to the examiner for JICA in Tokyo. The objection outlined damages that the villagers from the 400 ha area of Phase 1 of the project have incurred in their relocation from their homes and land. The Thilawa SEZ Management Committee recognizes difficulties experienced by Project Affected Persons. It is willing to provide as much assistance as possible. However, if somebody says that the lives of PAPs in the new relocation place is much worse than their original place, it is wrong. They did not have electricity in their old place. Now, they have electricity. They did not have water supply in their old place. Now they have ground-water hand-pumps in 1-2 minute walk from their houses. They did not have ownership of land on which they built their houses. Now, they can get ownership. Most of their houses were huts with bamboo-mat walls and palm-leave or thatch roofs. Now they have houses with timber walls and GI sheet roofs. Most of them did not have toilets. Now they have fly-proof toilets in each house. Their old houses were far from the main road. Now, they new houses are closed to the main road. Everybody knows that they are in better condition. It is also stated that the houses in the new relocation place are so small and poor quality. However, they have to confess that these houses are much better than their old huts. The sizes of PAPs' old houses varied from 45 sq.ft (i.e. 4 sq.m) and the average size was 200 sq.ft. However, the compensation amount is based on the size of their old house. Although their old house was huts, they got the amount of compensation for the construction of timber house of the same size. However, if they built brick houses bigger than their old houses, they should not complain that they were not compensated for whatever houses and whatever sizes they wanted to build. It was also stated that JICA accepted Myanmar Government's claims of legally acquiring the land. A particular ministry of the Myanmar Government has the document of ownership, which has been transferred since 1997. However, PAPs could not present any legal ownership, because they lived on the land of another owner and claimed to be their land just because they lived on it. There are many similar cases in Myanmar. Many people (including those who rented the houses) in many places claimed that they owned the place after living there for a certain number of years without having any ownership title. The Thilawa SEZ Management Committee has been encouraging the PAPs to work. The Committee secured their employment with the Myanmar-Japan joint-venture construction company, which is willing to employ them by paying Kyats 4,000-8,000 per day while the local daily wage around that area is about Kyats 2,000-5,000. However, only some PAPs accepted the job offer, others did not accept and continued drinking and gambling. Unfortunately, these facts were not included in the press release. It also stated about loss of educational opportunities. In May 2014, the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee recently helped 52 students (from Project Affected Households) to get registered with the school, and it also provided them with complimentary school books, school bags, stationaries, school uniforms, for the whole year. These kind of press releases had never mentioned about that. Hence, this press release is the release of only INCOMPLETE and BYASED information. However, the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee and Yangon Regional Government have been looking forward to helping Project Affected Persons to their best.