“Fishery business is in ruin due to Chinese oil tankers. Rakhine people’s lives become hopeless”
“Fishery business is in ruin due to Chinese oil tankers. Rakhine people’s lives become hopeless”
By Moe Yan Kha / Yangon Khit Thit
Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Myanmar from 17.1.2020 to 18.1.2020.In the course of his trip, he signed MOU for Kyauk Phyu SEZ and other Chinese investments. Since Chinese investments are invested in Kyauk Phyu, local people have been facing jobless situations in Kyauk Phyu. Yangon Khit Thit Media interviewed Ko Tun Kyi (KRDA) for those circumstances.
Q. What will be consequences if Chinese president Xi Jinping signs MOU for Kyauk Phyu SEZ project?
A. There are foreign investments in Kyauk Phyu now but local people have no chance to enjoy any rights or profits. Another point is internal problem, i.e. Federal Union country which ethnic people want cannot be established yet in Myanmar. Another thing is- though Rakhine Region produces many natural resources and there are many projects in Rakhine State, Rakhine people do not have an opportunity to enjoy any profits, take care of and manage those natural resources and projects.
Only people from union level handle everything about these investments. And any damages or injuries are seen to by union level too. Therefore, my analysis is -creating these projects can lead to more conflicts in our region before making Federal Union by ending unfinished civil war, coining peace and making federal constitution.
Q. What is current situation of gas pipeline and oil pipeline investments (that connects Yunan State, China and Rakhine State) between Kyauk Phyu and Ann townships?
A. There are lots of unsettled lands issues in Ann townships till now due to these projects principally in Kyauk Phyu and Ann Township. This is because CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) and relevant government departments collaboratively surveyed from 2015 throughout 2017.But after finishing surveys, there are lots of problems arisen that Myanmar government as well as Chinese companies ignored without paying much-needed compensations and damages-related compensations for the local people. That applies to Kyauk Phyu as well. They never listen to local people’s voices and concerns and take them into consideration. The thing is-based on Union government’s decisions, Rakhine local people inevitably have to obey and follow those decisions.
Q. Are local people employed due to these pipeline projects? How are the conditions?
A. No. Local people are not employed due to these pipeline projects. Not being employed means there are no local experts who could join at these sorts of projects. Most of people who are working at these kinds of projects are experts; therefore, we can say these types of projects cannot create any job opportunities in our region. There are about (20) people from the whole Rakhine State are employed- from the cleaner to normal general works in this whole work place owning to these Chinese Oil Pipeline projects.
Q. Local people face scarce employments due to these pipelines-related businesses. How does it like?
A. What I mean here is- they marked specific areas for oil tankers (ships), i.e., international water pathway from Kyauk Phyu. Being marked specific areas for oil tankers, they marked those areas with giant balls. The areas they marked with large balls are the areas in which our local fishermen catch aquatic species with two different types of fishing nets. One is fixed fishing net and the other is movable or floating fishing net. There are nearly four hundreds fishermen who use movable or floating fishing nets and over a thousand fishermen who use fixed fishing nets depending on those marked areas with colossal balls for Chinese oil tankers.
We address” movable or floating fishing net or Nga Lek Khwar (Arakanese term) fishing net, here Nga Let Khwar fish can attract handsome prices. But now fishermen seldom catch that type of fish species. According to fishermen from that area, those sorts of fish are no more at those areas or disappeared.Another thing is- fishermen cannot catch fish or other aquatic animals in those marked areas as Chinese oil tankers always come and go that water pathway. Consequently, as more and more local people from those places leave their places for China, Thailand and Malaysia in search of jobs opportunities. And if upcoming investments are implemented in our regions especially in Kyauk Phyu, no doubt that especially most of fishermen’s businesses at those projects-would-be-implemented areas will be lost. If their businesses are lost, and since there are no jobs opportunities for them, it is undeniable that they again will be Diasporas.
Therefore, we are pointing out that we want investments which can guarantee livelihoods for the people in our region. Only in fishing industry, both men and women have to work for that business. Husband and wife, the whole family has to live on in this business. Although they do not earn much amount, according to our research done in this year, a family earns at least (3) lakh per month. Another is-they do not necessarily need to buy fish for their daily meal. Comparing with others who have to buy (10g) of fish at the price of (800 kyats) or (1000 kyats), they could save money for it. They earn (3) lakh per month as a net profit. Now they do not earn it, starting from this year, they (fishermen) face hard time in terms of catching fish. Now when they go fishing, they catch only half comparing with previous years. They are deserting their fishing business. People who live in town give up their fishing business and work as trishaw men.
Q. What types of negative impacts can local people face due to Kyauk Phyu SEZ projects?
A. We do not have a chance to enjoy any rights or profits. Besides, now our traditional fishing industry has been destroyed. We have that problem.
Q.It was advised at Kofi Anan Report that Strategic Environment Assessment should be done. What would happen if that Strategic Environment Assessment were not implemented?
A. Current NLD-led government is poor in implementing Kofi Anan’s recommendations but only few things. If those recommendations are not implemented systematically, that can spur more conflicts in our region and that can have negative impacts towards local people’s livelihoods. What is worse is-these sorts of situations will force more and more local people to leave their native place for other places. Chinese people are not disciplined. They do not respect local people and local people’s culture too. We found that staff (higher ranks or lower ranks) at State’s different departments seems they are afraid of Chinese people. That should not be so. Therefore, what we opine that is with our unity, only after we establish our country with our own modal, then, these projects should continue to be implemented.
Q. What development does Kyauk Phyu SEZ bring for the local people?
A.This project will not bring any development especially about job opportunities. There will be no development at all in terms of jobs opportunities. And we do not have high-quality education to work there and no technology-related skills. Then, our local people will be employed. Skillful engineers and welders will take. There are not people in Kyauk Phyu yet who can work and handle high-qualification-needed jobs. Maybe one or two local people can be employed, no more than that.
Q. What are conditions of mangroves and land confiscations in Kyauk Phyu?
A.Mainly Chinese-back companies but not Chinese government, the ones who have close relationship with relevant Chinese companies and who receive information earliest about this project; those people have bought many acres of farming lands in Kyauk Phyu. Those people bought many acres of farming lands but they do not know exactly about the project situations. Here we conserve mangroves as common places; nobody can own them. However, after 2015 people there were rumours that Kyauk Phyu SEZ would be implemented, since then we could see even people in authority helped people buy those mangroves areas. If they destroy our mangroves in this way, how are we going to project natural disasters?
Rakhine Coastal Region can face natural disasters at any time. If they continue to make lands cutting mangroves, our daily business- fishing industry will be annihilated. On top of that, natural disasters will be prone to occur in no time. It is essential that government have to check the real situation of it. And if mangroves areas are within government projects-designated areas, then, government has to plant mangroves in other suitable places as replacement. But now the rich people are destroying the mangroves; they do whatever they want. Is it lawless society in this country? ”How has government arranged for disaster risk management” is the very topic we need to put into discussion. This is the subject government needs to settle urgently.
Q. What would Rakhine State’s future be during Chinese president’s journey?
A. Rakhine State’s future is not directly related to Chinese president’s journey but only with Union government. Arms clashes between Arakan Army and Myanmar gradually have increased since 2015 and there have been wars between AA and Myanmar Army the whole year of 2016, 2017 and 2018 and till 2019.There was no any days without war in Rakhine State. So many Rakhine civilians died, wrongfully arrested and being detained on the grounds of suspicion. Union government has not issued any statement about it yet. It is not like civil war.
The reasons Rakhine people lose sense of belonging to Union Spirit is it seems that the owners Union do not take Rakhine peoples into serious consideration. It is not concerned with Chinese president. This is internal affair.
Q.Any other things you want to add?
A. In my opinion, now Myanmar government should try to end civil wars in Myanmar and should go to Federal Union country based on equality while trying to achieve peace that all ethnic people want. Then, based-on Rakhine public, Rakhine State government, weaknesses and strengths of the projects, decide to work with chosen countries; after making sure, sign MOU for the projects. Now MOUs for all projects in Rakhine State were signed with Union government. Rakhine people do not know anything about them. Consequently, Rakhine peoples feel very indignant about them.
Photo Credit – MPO