With oil and gas majors planning to ramp up Myanmar operation, the need for a local offshore supply base is becoming critical. There are several plans for offshore supply base (OSB) in Myanmar aim to support the servicing oil and gas exploration and drilling activities of various businesses throughout the coastal region such as Mon State, Tanintharyi Davison, Ayerwaddy Division and Rakhine State. However, there is no transplant information for pEoPle regards to those investments. Few or forged consultations with local in project areas and numerous unethical land grabbing is commonly occur.
For these reasons, Paung Ku COCI team and Ayerwaddy team discussed and co-organized a learning trip in last week of April 2019 to Songkhla Deep Sea-Port in Muang District, Thailand with the purposes to learn before-during-after impacts of sea-port, breakwater on coastal community and ecosystem that transpired in the area. It also aims to mobilize the community and to have the information beforehand which will raise the capacity of local folks to understand the potential effects of those large-scale projects. 21 participants including Paung Ku team represented ranging from community leaders, women, youths and monks.
Youth collecting data for community research in Pharlain area/SEM
They are from Pharlain Community from Mon State and Nga Yoke Kaung Community from Ayerwaddy Region which has directly exposed to OSB. Paung Ku’s consultant Mr. Montree Chantawon supports the coordination in Thailand parts such as inviting scholar and organizing field visits.
Pharlain is a dynamic community rich with natural resources. In 2016, they developed the report named “Abundance of Pharlain Natural Resources and Communities” with the strategy supported by Paung ku to encounter the Coal Power Plant intended to implement in Andin one of the village which would destroy the environment and adversely impact the local communities’ livelihoods such as fishing and farming. The plant canceled in 2016 because of the strong coalition of residents, monks, grassroots groups. Na Yoke Kaung participants are from Na Yoke Kaung Bay area in Ayeyarwaddy Division where Myint & Associates Offshore Supply Base Ltd (M&AOSB) intends to build and operate its Offshore Supply Base. M& AOSB commenced the initial stage of the project in 2017 and Bay’s ecosystem and community’s’ livelihoods are facing harmful footprints.
Montree and Paung Ku team chose Songkhla because Songkhla has similar geography and social setting as Pharlain and Nga Yoke Kaung .The trip was planned coherently of input sections and field visits. Professors, local experts, and community leaders presented and shared their own experiences of Songkhla Deep Seaport. The first day started with a visit to Songkhla Deep Seaport. The visit led by Mrs. Kanita Sprasom, researcher of Community Rights Project in Songkla Lake Basin, a local fisherman, and youth activist. The group learned about community resistance to protect fishery in Suan Gon Village against the construction of the second Songkhla deep seaport in Chana district, Songkhla. Myanmar participants had the chance to meet and deliberate with chair parson of Chana Sea Conservation Association, Thai Sea Conservation and a representative from Chana Projection group.
On 24 April morning, Dr. Somporn Chuai-Aree (Faculty of Science and Technology, Prince of Songkla University (PSU) Pattani Campus) gave a lecture and led the discussion about impacts of seaport and breakwater construction on coastal ecosystems. After that, the group did the analysis on the impacts of the seaport on Andin and Nga Yoke Kaung Villages. Follow by the field exposure trip in the afternoon analyzing impacts of coastal erosion at Thepa River mouth in Sakom Subdistrict in Songkhla.
Community research in action in Pharlain Area/SEM
On last day, Montree organized field lecture at Nong Takhian Park on the topic of history and impacts of Songkhla Deep Seaport project on fishery community and Songkhla Lake ecosystem. The participants observed similar processes that happened in Thailand and happening in Myanmar. Before headed back to Myanmar, they did the recap and brainstormed about what they could do on the return for their own community.
The teams came out with the approaches to rise up awareness discussion and do the even, to organize the capacity building activities in the community, to build the relationship with local government and more importantly to do the area based researches and cooperative academic studies. They also viewed that regional and international cooperation also plays an important role to fight against those large-scale projects.
The learning, witnessing and understanding the impacts of the OSB project in Thailand boosted their confidence on community power that they have in their hands. Ones understand how those projects could originate as a form of development and actually could destroy the livelihood of the community. During the trips, both communities from Andin and Nag Yoke Kaung got to network not only each other but also with scholars and experts.
Thai Scholar examines that Andin project could be larger than actually planning, as in Songkhla the company expands their project years by years. It also could be assumed that patrol can include in Pharlain’s OSB and the community possibly will require to take an account of the impacts of petrol leaking.
A community leader from Songkhla firmly said to Myanmar participants that “Reject before it comes because here in Songkhla, after the project, the government did several projects to restore the ecosystem back but, it will never be the same. It is impossible to repair”.
Paung Ku Program Officer, who work closely with Pharlain community, stated that “there was a lot of taking away understanding form the trip, It let me understand the OSB projects on a bird-eye view which will lead me to deep analyzing about how I could support better to our partner(Pharlain Community). I also realize the vital role of the community’s key actors/leaders who will drive the community mobilization. Pharlain community is now on the process of developing community research on eco-system of Pharlain Area and it expects to complete by December 2019”
As a follow-up actions of OSB learning trip, Paung Ku team consider to consolidate a forum or meet up with CSOs, community actors from relevant areas who endeavor for OSB and its related issues so that pEoPle could get a space to share their local own experiences and perhaps come out with a national strategic scheme on OSBs matter.