A locally contested cement factory planned for Kayah (Karenni) State may violate the terms of a bilateral ceasefire if the project moves ahead without further consultation, an ethnic armed group said.
Khu Nyeh Reh, who runs the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) liaison office in Loikaw, pointed out that the government is supposed to consult the party about large-scale development projects prior to inking any deals.
“According to the agreement between the KNPP and the government, such big projects are supposed to be suspended as long as the two parties have not reached an agreement in the political dialogue. Another point [in the agreement] is to negotiate with us before carrying out regional development tasks,” he said.
The KNPP, along with local civil society groups, met with representatives from the Kayah State government on August 14 to press for more public consultation before breaking ground on the scheduled 4,000-ton factory.
The cement factory would be built in Pa Kyal Taung Thone Lone, Loikaw by the Square Power Group (SPG) Company Limited. The company says it was granted a license by the Myanmar Investment Commission in 2011 under the previous administration.
Khu Nyeh Reh said the state’s chief minister was receptive to the request for increasing efforts to inform the public and to conduct the project transparently.
“The chief minister said public opinion will be collected again and the project will be revealed to the public. It will only be built if the public agrees to it,” said Khu Nyeh Reh. “The best way forward would be to hold a referendum in the state. I want to [urge the government] to hold a transparent referendum.”
Following the meeting with the chief minister, the CSOs and political groups issued a statement objecting to the cement factory on the grounds that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) were not detailed enough. They also criticized the company for failing to cooperate with the Kayah State Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and for breaching the ceasefire agreement’s points about suspending big investments until after the political dialogue.
SPG Company’s operation director Ko Thet Maung Oo told The Kantarawaddy Times that building the factory would help develop not just the state, but the country, and could bring new technologies to Kayah State. But he added that the company has no intention to act against the public will.
“The Kayah State government will hold a public meeting at City Hall in Loikaw on August 25. The state government will only allow us [to carry out the project] when it is agreed to by the public,” he said.
According to the company, the Myanmar Investment Commission granted them a license for a 4,000-ton cement factory in Pa Kyal Taung Thone Lone area on November 8, 2011. The Ministry of Mines also granted license to the company to operate a limestone quarry in this area on December 7, 2008 following on a geological survey.
The company allocated 98 acres of land to build the factory, and 292 acres of land to carry out rock quarrying. Farmers who were asked to relocate to make way for the project were reportedly granted compensation in December 2013.