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Hundreds join protest against big oil and gas in Kanbauk

Residents in Kanbauk, Tenasserim Division staged a protest against several oil and gas companies who are operating in the area.

The protestors said the companies should take responsibility for respiratory problems allegedly caused by heavy trucks tearing up the dirt roads, which also create dust clouds and damage the environment.

PTTEPI, PETRONAS and Total operate in the area and locals are demanding they tarmac the roads.

“There are several companies operating in the area, and they have been frequently using the dirt roads,” said Wunna Toe from the Regional Development Network. “They are creating clouds of dust, which we have to inhale on a regular basis and it is causing health concerns”.

The protest was organised by local civil society group the Regional Development Network and they initially issued three demands. The group are calling on the three companies to tarmac the road and ensure effective environmental conservation measures are in place.

A third demand to supply 24 hour electricity to the local villages in Kanbauk was dropped as local authorities said the electricity supply was the responsibility of the local government, not the companies.

Hundreds of residents from 20 villages in Kanbauk joined the protest saying PTTEPI, PETRONAS and Total’s operations in projects in Ohnbin Kwin village were damaging their livelihood.

A main road leading to the Yetagun offshore gas field runs through Kanbauk and relay stations for the pipeline, which transports gas to Thailand, are dotted throughout the area.

“They haven’t done much with our problems for the past 20 years,” said a local Buddhist monk. ”Yet they are investing so much in the projects. We are protesting here to highlight the problem the public has to face.”

The companies have been running social and economic development projects for over 30 villages in the area, and in 2013 invited opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to observe their work.

This is the first mass protest in the area against oil and gas companies. Organisers sought permission to protest seven times before it was granted.