Saraburi Coal Mining, a subsidiary of Ital-Thai that received a 30 year concession by Burmese authorities to export coal from Shan State East’s Mongkok sub-township, Monghsat township, 70km north of Thailand’s Chiangrai border, has begun working on the construction of its project, destroying paddy fields, farms and lands of local villagers, according to local reports.
“They [the company workers] started clearing the space to construct the buildings and extract mine in mid April. They destroyed all the areas in the project site. Areas that were not designated in their lists were also destroyed as well,” a source said.
According to farmers, the coal company paid them Baht 20,000 ($ 666.6) per acre rate for compensation.
“But the Burmese authorities just paid us only Kyat 20,000 ($20) per acre,” said another resident whose farms were also destroyed.
“With that little money how can we survive in the long time? Some company workers even suggested us to relocate to Thailand if we don’t have a place to stay and survive in our home area,” she added. “There are lots of jobs for the likes of us there, they said.”
The said coal mining project has been protested by people both in Shan State and Thailand since 2009, because of its plan to ship coal from the Mongkok mine through conflict zones inside Shan State and through unaffected areas in northern Thailand to the city of Saraburi in central Thailand where it will be used as fuel in cement factories, according to Courier Information Services (CIS) report.
The company was asked by the Burma Army, in exchange for the coal concession, to construct a new route across the border despite the existence of a shorter 100 km route inside Burma’s Tachilek to Thailand’s Maesai.
The road is proposed to be built across Maejok on the Burmese side of the border to Thailand’s Hmong Kaolang village, Mae Fa Luang district. It will be around 60 km inside Burma and at least 90 km inside Thailand until it connects with the national highway at Pasang, between Maesai and Chiangrai, said a village leader in Mae Fa Luang.
The proposed road would be able to transport between 2,000-5,000 tons of coal per day. The deposit in Mongkok boasts at least 150 million tons of raw coal, one third found to be Grade A. It would take 40 years long to deplete the fields even with 270 ten wheelers working each day to transport, according to an official from the company.
People from both sides are concerned that the coal shipment could destroy and affect local village life along the proposed route as well as, endangering the environment and their security.
In addition, the road project could also promote drug trafficking and damage public roads as well, thus local people in Thailand have been urging the company to use other routes.