Home Insider Insider News Social and Ecological Issues Arising from Myanmar-Thailand Highway

Social and Ecological Issues Arising from Myanmar-Thailand Highway

A planned highway linking a port project to Thailand approved by Myanmar government in June arises several issues related with social and ecological factors. But the environmental and social impact assessment for the road project failed to adequately identify compensation for loss of land and livelihoods among other problems.

This highway project is critical for each nation as it will link Thailand to a deepsea port and planned Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Dawei, a town on the Myanmar side of an isthmus divided between the two countries.

The industrial complex would aid as a gateway to South-east Asia’s markets with goods trucked between Dawei and Thailand, by not having to trade with ships to sail southward through the Malacca Straights, the world’s busiest shipping lane.

“This can lead to an ecological and social disaster,” stated Christy Williams, Myanmar director for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an international conservation group.

But Williams revealed that the planned road would cross through a regional area of “huge ecological importance with wealthy biodiversity”. The external factors considered only focus on the effects on people and the environment within 500m of the road, he added, but the influence will affect a much wider area. He stated WWF had been working with communities and provided “extensive recommendations and solutions” to the Myanmar authorities and Myandawei Industrial Estate Co Ltd, the Thai firm developing the road and SEZ, however these had “been ignored”.

The impact assessment failed to identify many consideration factors which are pointed by residents during consultation sessions, said Thant Zin, director of the Dawei Development Association, a local civil society group. “Our major matters over the project are forced relocation of thousands of local indigenous people, potential industrial pollution … land grabbing and livelihood issues, and human rights violations in project area,” he stated.

A spokesman of Myanmar’s environment ministry did not give a respond to the repeated requests for comment.