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Stories on “Society & Community“

  • Environmental Campaigner Convicted of Forestry Crime


    A prominent anti-dam activist in Koh Kong province who has been jailed since October was convicted Thursday of illegal logging and given a suspended prison sentence, allowing him to walk free but leaving the shadow of a criminal conviction hanging over him.

    The decision marked the first conviction of an activist affiliated with the group Mother Nature, which has been a thorn in the side of the government for the past two years due to its provocative and eye-catching protests against the impending construction of a hydropower dam in Koh Kong’s Areng Valley.

  • Myanmar: The great land rush


    Hla Ohn May still weeps when she takes the road past the twisted white piping of the gas terminal near the western Myanmar town of Kyaukphyu. The 46-year-old farmer and mother of five once owned land on this green strip perched above the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal.

    Then she and fellow villagers were bought out by a consortium, which included the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation and the Korean conglomerate Daewoo. Kyaukphyu is now the starting point for a pair of immense Beijing-backed transnational energy pipelines, turning these wild shores into what some are calling “China’s west coast”.

    The development is a big part of fast-opening Myanmar’s efforts to exploit its position at the crossroads of Asia. The lush fields where Ms Hla Ohn May and other farmers used to plant rice and beans are mere industrial landscaping now, manicured behind fences by company workers in orange jumpsuits. Ms Hla Ohn May was paid Kt2.78m ($2,250 at current exchange rates) but feels she was short-changed for giving up the only productive asset she ever had.

  • Rallying call in Myanmar to meet growing climate threats


    The population of Myanmar is being urged to lend a hand in preparing the country for climate change.

    Their country, despite low emission, is exposed to various climate hazards such as cyclones, heavy rain, flooding, extreme temperatures, drought and sea level rise.

    In a seminar entitled “Post COP21: Prospects and Challenges for Myanmar”, Harjeet Singh, ActionAid’s international policymaker for climate change, has issued the need for action.

    He said civil society and NGOs needed to help the government assess climate impacts and develop plans for adaptation and addressing damage; help generate awareness and develop ways to deal with crises; and conduct pilot projects on various sectors and document learning so that action could be scaled up.

  • PM Pledges 1M Hectares of ELC Land to Poor


    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday declared an end to the government’s review of Cambodia’s economic land concessions (ELCs), pledging that nearly 1 million hec­tares of reappropriated property would be handed over to poor families. He also announced a major reorganization of the two ministries involved in granting ELCs.

    Environmental and human rights groups have identified ELCs as a cause of some of Cambodia’s most pressing problems in recent years, from rampant deforestation to forced evictions across the country.

  • Dawei SEZ project sparks hopes and worries


    At present, there is only a wide road and vast fields but the area will soon be a flourishing major economic hub for neighbouring countries including Thailand and Myanmar. It is the site of the Dawei deep-sea port, the largest in the country, with a project area spanning thousands of square kilometres.

  • Iron mine damages 25ha of rice fields


    The exploitation of an iron mine has caused landslide, damaging some 25ha of rice fields in Ho Hamlet, Huong Son Commune, Huong Hoa District of the in this Central Quang Tri Province.

    The local authority identified an upstream iron mine, managed by Hoanh Son Industry, Trade and Services JSC, as the source of the problem.

    Apart from ruining the rice fields, which have now been abandoned, sand and rubble from the mine have blocked the Khe Let stream. Moreover, vehicles transporting the iron ore have damaged a section of the road connecting the commune with Huong Hoa District.

  • Salween Farmers Demand Government Accountability for Land Confiscation


    Participants at a land rights seminar in Mon State urged the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government to address past practices of land confiscation with a special court dedicated to the issue.

    Mon State’s Salween Eastern Farmers and Land Users Seminar was held in Moulmein for two days, from February 14-15, with over 90 representatives participating from five Mon State townships and one Tenasserim Division township, all selected for their locations east of the Salween River. Also present were Moulmein-based farmers’ organizations and civil society groups focused on land rights.

  • World Bank safeguards review: “human rights-free zone”


    As the third and final consultation phase on the second draft of the World Bank’s proposed new environmental and social framework (ESF), replacing the current safeguards, progresses, civil society organisations (CSOs), the UN and certain member states continue to demand that the Bank incorporates human rights in all its activities (see Observer Autumn 2015, Winter […]

  • Dawei residents vow to fight special economic zone


    More than 200 representatives from Kalonehtar village in Dawei organized a spiritual ceremony last week to symbolize their ongoing protest against the mega Dawei Special Economic Zone to be built under a joint venture deal between the Thai, Maymar and Japan governments. Under the current project plan about 1,000 villagers would be resettled to pave way for a reservoir to feed the new industry complex.

    “We believe that we have the right to determine our own sustainable future on our native lands,’ they declared. “We, the Kalonehtar villagers, will not move from our native place and we will not accept any project that does not respect our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. We do not support any part of the Dawei SEZ project.”

  • Investors buy up Dawei real estate


    The price of property in Dawei has risen beyond the reach of local residents as investors from overseas and Upper Myanmar buy up land in anticipation of a new special economic zone.

    While the zone has been eight years in the making, there are still few signs of development on the ground. However, recent announcements that construction is moving ahead, combined with escalating conflict in the north of the country, has led to a rise in real estate investment in the area, local residents said.

    Buying property in Tanintharyi Region is an “adventure for investors” they added, as township authorities have no specific land-use policies and land ownership documents are scarce. It is therefore hard to discover who owns the land, as sellers often do not transfer ownership in written form.

  • Coal plant in Thepa ‘would inflame the insurgency’


    ACTIVISTS have voiced concern that a coal-fired power plant proposed for Thepa district in Songkhla will cause more violence in the Deep South – as mosques, a religious school and Muslim cemeteries would have to be moved to make way for the plant.

    They also claimed that all three public hearings about the plant and its coal transport pier were not held properly. They have said the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) should revoke the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) on the project.

    Yesterday, the Southernmost People’s Network of Community Right and Environment Safeguard for Peace (Permatamas) and a group of locals and students from Prince of Songkla University’s Pattani Campus gathered at ONEP to give a petition to the agency’s secretary general.

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