Minister U Han Sein says Dawei SEZ project ‘like renovating some parts of an old house in order to prevent it from collapsing’

19 October 2015
Minister U Han Sein says Dawei SEZ project ‘like renovating some parts of an old house in order to prevent it from collapsing’
Photo: Theingi Htun/Mizzima

The Dawei Special Economic Zone has been championed by both the Myanmar and Thai governments as a promising industrial development for Myanmar, yet there have been difficulties getting the project off the ground.
New life was injected on August 5, 2015, when the Myanmar government and Italian-Thai Development signed an agreement to restart the initial phase of the large industrial zone and seaport on Myanmar’s southeastern coastline.
The project is to be developed by a consortium of developers led by Italian-Thai Development.
According to the agreement, the initial phase of the project must be carried out on the 7-square-kilometre land allotted for the special zone, and 65 percent of construction must be completed within three years from the signing date. In the meantime, Italian-Thai Development has been building infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water supplies and buildings.
In the drive to develop the area into a major industrial zone, some residents have voiced concerns that the Dawei SEZ will negatively affect them.
To date, there have been many problems to be solved that have affected the community and land in the area including the problem of compensation for land acquisition, and workers' affairs, and environmental issues.
Mizzima recently interviewed Deputy Transport Minister U Han Sein, who is the Chairman of the Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee, about how the government is handling the project.
We've learnt that you visited the Dawei Special Economic Zone. We have heard that some residents accept compensation for the loss of land or other impacts, but some residents refused compensation because the amount offered did not match current market prices. Did you meet with residents? 
No. We did not meet. There are sub-groups in the management committee. We made some negotiations with them for some affairs. But regarding the affairs related to compensation, there is compensation sub-committee, which handles this problem.
It is inevitable in a project of this size that in the building of infrastructure, including roads, bridges and housing, local inhabitants who have been displaced or negatively affected will be looking for compensation. What are your plans for compensation?
The sub-committee, the community leaders and the representatives of the project will make negotiations in the period to deal with the land issues.
We heard allegations that the negotiations between Italian-Thai Development and the village committee lacked transparency. Have you heard about this?
I don't know about it exactly. We will have to solve the problems in accordance with the situation. I still don't know about it exactly so I cannot say how we should sort this out. It is not a new job. We already have experience. But the Management Committee chairperson alone cannot do it.
One labour issue that surfaced during the period the Dawei Special Economic Zone project was paused for several years was the handout of three-month’s wage compensation. But when the project resumed, each of the workers has to repay half of their compensation, they said. So their wages were cut. What do you know about this situation?
I've seen the workers' problems on TV, too. That was what the workers said. But the groups which are in those places at the site did not tell me anything when I met with them.
What can be done to improve understanding between the company, the investor and the workers?
We have officials to select the workers. It has been about seven or eight years since we decided to develop the project. Sometimes, the workers’ side did not follow the discipline. Now, we have not begun the work. They have their workers and there are workers hired by us. The works will be begun after the next seven months.
Meanwhile, they were given some instructions. If they want to appoint workers [as workers’ representatives], they should not do it by themselves. There are some people who registered at the committee to find jobs. We have told their side to choose some workers from the people who registered.
ITD [Italian-Thai Development] is not new to this project. They know many things that we don't know. We cannot draw a line that will separate us. We should not summon them to give them instructions saying what they should do. If we behave like that, there will be many complications. This is not like building a new house. What we are doing is renovating some parts of the old house in order to prevent the old house from collapsing.