DVB Multimedia Group

12 Foreign companies await results on Kyaukphyu SEZ

The natural gas terminal at Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, where a special economic zone is underway, March 2013. (PHOTO: Shwe Gas Movement)

Twelve companies from seven countries have submitted proposals for the development of a Special Economic Zone in Kyaukphyu, western Burma, according to the SEZ selection committee.

Proposals include plans to develop factories, housing projects and the completion of a deep sea port.

A call for tenders was announced earlier this year and the bidding window closed on 25 August, the secretary of the committee, Aung Kyaw Than, said.

“Twelve conglomerates from seven countries have shown interest in three economic zone projects: the seaport project, a housing project and a factory project. They have submitted all data and logistics for the developments,” he said.

Bids were received from countries across Europe and Asia, but most of the bidders are from Southeast Asian nations. Aung Kyaw Than said that the committee will decide based on which plan can create more opportunities for local businesses.

Kyaukphyu is located on the coast of Arakan State, and is expected to become a major gateway for trade. It is also the starting point of two pipelines built to deliver natural gas and crude oil to southeastern China, one of which came online last year after several years of setbacks. The project, which was envisioned by the former military junta and likely the impetus for development of the SEZ, faced major opposition from local people everywhere from Kyaukphyu to Yunnan.

While many locals have accepted the SEZ project on the promise of development, concerns remain about land loss and unemployment. Most of the local people rely on fishing and farming to earn a living, and many have already issued complaints to local authorities that land has been seized or destroyed. Fishermen, also, have repeatedly claimed that dredging and pollution have taken a heavy toll on their livelihoods. The amount of fish is in rapid decline, and the seaport project has led to restrictions on when and where villagers can fish.

Ba Shwe, chairman of Kyaukphyu SEZ Watch, said that he and his colleagues will continue to monitor the situation closely. The prospect of increased electrical access, better social services and work options are enticing to villagers, but many still doubt that those benefits will ever materialise, as many corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects have failed them in the past. Moreover, some villagers who have lost their land were in turn granted jobs on the port site, which are temporary and poorly paid.

“We can accept the good things, but we are still very worried about possible land seizures and joblessness,” said Ba Shwe. “We will keep watching investors”.

The committee said that they hope to begin implementing development of the zone by April 2015. Singaporean CPG Corporation was selected as the leading consultancy firm for the development in March of this year.