Thursday, August 17, 2017

Township tells farmers not to protest over land

A group of farmers in Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu township are hoping for negotiations with the Southeast Asia Gas Pipeline (SEAGP) company, after being told by local authorities not to sue the firm over damage to farmland.

A farmer examines a flooded paddy field near the Southeast Asia Gas Pipeline in 2013. Photo: StaffA farmer examines a flooded paddy field near the Southeast Asia Gas Pipeline in 2013. Photo: Staff

The 20 farmers say that waste water from the Southeast Asia Gas pipeline, which runs from Rakhine State to China’s Yunnan Province, has seeped into farmland, destroyed crops and left the land unusable.

The pipeline is a joint venture between China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

The SEAGP company has already paid out K210 million in compensation to 200 farmers in Kyaukphyu township between October 2015 and April this year, a spokesperson for the firm told The Myanmar Times last month.

The compensation was paid at a rate of K300,000 per acre of damaged land. But the group of 20 farmers rejected the settlement, and asked for K10 million per acre, which the firm refused to pay, said U Tun Kyi, a negotiator for the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association.

The group then sent a letter to the township administration office on June 18 requesting approval to protest against the company, according to Daw Kyi Kyi Hnin, one of the 20 holdouts.

But the administration office asked them not to proceed with the protest nor with a lawsuit the farmers had threatened to bring if the compensation they demanded was not paid, she said.

The township administration office asked the farmers to negotiate with the company instead, she added, but the joint venture has taken a firm line on its position.

Henry Zhang, deputy public relations manager for the company, said the compensation dispensed so far is more than enough, and that Myanmar laws and regulations would not support a lawsuit were the farmers to bring one.

Some of the holdout group farmers have fields far away from the waste water plant, where any damage caused has not been down to the pipeline, he said.

“We’ve investigated the issue three times,” he said. “We will compensate according to Myanmar regulations only if we find out that damage has been caused by our company.”

Daw Kyi Kyi Hnin said the farmers want their land to be restored to its former state so that it can be cultivated again.

“If the company takes responsibility for their operations and constructs proper drains for waste water then the land can be repaired and compensation won’t be that high,” she said.