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Residents from 23 villages in southern Shan state, who have been relocated to make way for the Upper Paunglaung Dam project, have urged the government to keep its promise in providing them with compensation and basic facilities in their new location.
Around 8,000 villagers from Pin Laung township which sits along the Paunglaung River, a tributary of the Sittaung River, were relocated after plans were announced to construct a massive hydropower dam on the river.
At a press conference in Rangoon on 4 November, their representatives voiced their disappointment with the government for failing to keep a promise: to provide them with adequate compensation, and access to electricity and drinking water in their new locations; and to build roads for better transportation between the villages.
“They didn’t pay us compensation for our farmlands, only for the crops,” said Nyunt Win, a villager from Kyaungkabar village. “As farmers who make a living from and cherish the land we inherited from our ancestors, we are calling on all parties to consider our rights.”
The Burmese government previously pledged 20 billion kyat (US$20 million) in compensation for the villagers. However, many farmers were later dismissed from compensation claims when they could not provide the necessary paperwork, such as householder lists and land deeds.
A student from Pin Laung said the villagers were living in hardship due to poor transportation access and a shortage of clean water to drink.
“Some people have died because it takes so long to get to the hospital,” said the young woman. “We also need wells and additional compensation.”
Meanwhile, the Kayan New Generation Youth civil society group said it will send a letter to the Burmese president urging him to help ensure the villagers receive the compensation they were promised.
The 140 megawatt dam, being constructed with assistance from Swiss-based AF-Colenco Ltd and UK-based Malcolm Dunstan and Associates, is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
The Paunglaung River region is inhabited by Pa-O, Karenni and Burman peoples, most of whom make a living as farmers. Nearly 2,500 households and 12,000 acres of farmland were forcibly confiscated to make way for the dam which, when completed, will submerge the entire Paunglaung valley.