Local residents and community leaders gathered to meet with local press at Zayat Phyu village on October 8, to express their opposition against the proposed coal power plant to supply electricity for the No.2 Myaing Galay cement plant near Hpa-an.
On the mid-September 2016, the villagers were informed by officials from the Ministry of Energy and from the cement plant about the plan in changing of electricity supply running the plant from gas to the coal power.
U Kaindasara, the abbot of Zayat Phyu temple, who is one of the religious leaders opposing the plant, told Karen News that meeting with press is to get the issue out as they don’t want the plant.
“There must be a clear accountability in any work to be done. There must be public consultation about the plan.” U Kaindasara said, “coal power plants are very dangerous. You can’t tell villagers only about the benefits, you should also tell them about the negative consequences.”
Abbot U Kaindasara recalled that before the building of the Myaing Galay cement factory, the authorities made promises to locals that they still have not met.
“Villagers affected by the cement factory were promised compensation. Many villagers had to move away and the authorities said they would compensate, but they failed to do so. This time, we will not let them do this to us again.” Said U Kaindasara form his temple less than a mile away from the factory.
The Myaing Galay Cement Plants are owned by the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) which is a major conglomerate and holding company operated by the Burmese military under the Defense Ministry.
However, Mahn Kyaw Htet Khaing, a villager from Hlakar village and many other villagers like him, vowed to fight against the proposed plan if their voices are not being heard.
“If they [cement plant officials] move ahead with their plan, we will continue oppose it. We had suffered with the cement plants and now we have no more trust in their promises.”
At the community press conference, villagers held posters with hand written phrases such as ‘Absolute Opposition’, ‘We don’t want coal power that will have negative impacts for generation’, and ‘we don’t want coal power that will pollute our air and water’.
Saw Kyaw Win, the administration chief of Hlakar village said that the proposed plan lacks transparency.
“There is no clear information about the proposed project being explained to the people. The cement plant’s chief summoned village administration heads in the areas and gave them 50 sacks of cement for each village and then, they were informed about the proposed coal power plan. I think they are trying to give incentive not to oppose the plan.”
According to village sources, they have submitted a petition letter to the Chief Minister of Karen State about the losses and violations they face with the cement plants and if the cement plant is to be operated by coal power, then the impact on locals will worsen.
An initial inquiry team that includes State member of parliaments, engineers and township chief administration made a visit to the Myaing Kalay no.2 4,000 tons capacity cement plant to assess the site on the October 1st, 2016.
Member of Parliament have said out that if people do not agree with the plan, they won’t allow it to happen.
Nan Than Than Lwin, a member of the house of representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw), who was included in the initial inquiry team, told Karen News that without the agreement of the villagers, they [MPs] can’t agree with the plan as they are people’s representatives.
Speaking to Karen News, Nan Than Than Lwin said.
“When I asked the cement plant officials about permission from the government, they said that they hadn’t yet applied for it. They told us how much it would save energy by using coal power, but they didn’t explain about the negative impacts of the coal power. If there is no benefit for the people and the people do not agree with it, we can’t let them proceed with the plan.”
Villages sources estimated that a total of 27 villages around the Myaing Galay cement plant will be affected if the coal power plant is to be built.
Mahn Kyaw Htet Khaing, who is involved in the signature campaign against the proposed coal power said that they have collected as many as 3,000 signatures from villagers from 27 villages who don’t want the coal power plan.
Mahn Kyaw Htet Khaing said that they have submitted it to the Karen State Chief Minister.
“We submitted the signatures and U Aung Soe Lwin from the Chief Minister office received it. Villagers are worried. Now we hear that machines and materials used for the coal power plants are already being brought in. This make us worry more.”