Economic Development: Strategic Project Amid Local Fear

16 June 2017

Myanmar-China joint ventured project Kyaukphyu Economic Zone is set to be the trade corridor of Myanmar, with Africa, Middle East and China. 

It is also positioned to serve as the strategic place connecting the three dynamic economies of China, India and ASEAN. 

The development of SEZ in Rakhine State was first announced in September 2013. The project area covers more than 4,200 at the heart of a rural area inhabited by some 400,000 people.

As part of the project, the port was built at the entry point for a Chinese oil and gas pipeline. The pipeline is part of the nearly 10 billion dollars SEZ project, and forms a crucial part of Beijing's "Belt and Road" project to deepen its economic links with Asia and beyond.

The two countries signed an agreement in April that will see oil pumped through the pipeline from Kyauk Pyu across Myanmar to southwestern China.

As the commencement of this project, an oil tanker carrying 130,000 metric tons of crude oil arrived at Made Island Jetty in KyaukPhyu on April 10th.

CITIC Group, the main developer of the Kyauk Pyu SEZ, says the project will create 100,000 jobs opportunities in Rakhine State.

But many local residents say they fear the project would not contribute to the development of the area as there is no consultation or regard for their way of life.

LOCAL FISHERMAN, NYEIN AYE: They stop us when we go out fishing. We have been facing many difficulties since these big ships arrived. Our income has been reduced since then.

But China says the Kyauk Pyu development is based on "win-win" co-operation between the two countries.

CITIC says it will build a vocational school to provide training for skills needed by companies in the economic zone. It has given 1.5 million dollars to local villages to develop businesses, according to Reuters report.

Experts pointed out that there needs to be more information and planning to give people more confidence that they can also benefit from this project.

LEGAL CONSULTANT , INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION OF JURISTS,  SEAN BAIN : "So the worry is that people will be displaced without proper compensation and without restoration of their livelihoods and this will result in violations of their economic rights, their social rights and their cultural rights."

Chinese investors say they also plan to spend 1 million dollars during the first five years of the development, and 500,000 dollars per year thereafter to improve local living standards.