Nam Jim Economic Zone to Be Suspended, CSO Says

Map of Burma-China joint economic development zone in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state.

Plans for a controversial economic zone planned on the outskirts of Myitkyina has been suspended, civil society attendees told KNG after a meeting with state officials this month.

The Kachin State parliament’s finance committee met with the Kachin State public land and projects monitoring committee—a civil society organization (CSO)—on March 16. Government officials reportedly said that the Nam Jim special economic zone is on pause.

“Regarding the Nam Jim economic zone project, a government official said that even though the state government signed an MoU, the project is being stopped at the moment,” N’jai Naw Ja, who is working with the monitoring group, said. “We asked him whether the project is being suspended or canceled. He explained that it’s being ‘stopped at the moment.”

N’jai Naw Ja said that the official did not explain why the project was being stopped.

The Kachin State government signed an MoU with a Chinese company in May 2018 without obtaining consent from local people who would be affected by the project. The agreement was valid for one year and stated that if negotiations were not completed during that time, it could be extended for another six months. Those periods have now passed.

Hkaw Mar Wu, a parliamentarian from Sawlaw Constituency-2 and a member of the finance committee, said that the MoU was never reported to the state parliament.

“The Kachin State government implemented it with a directive from the Union government. The Kachin State government has yet to report it to the Kachin State parliament,” she told KNG. “After signing the MoU, they are still discussing how to implement the project. They are observing the situation on the ground. I think the Kachin State government is trying to reduce problems and opposition from local people, rather than stopping the project.”

The Nam Jim economic zone is set to be one of Burma’s largest, at nearly 2,000 hectares of land. By comparison, the Thilawa economic zone in Yangon is 400 hectares.

N’jai Naw Ja said that the primary problem with the project is the lack of transparency with the parliament and with locals.

“Local farmers just learned of the project when officials came to measure the land plots after they had signed the MoU,” N’jai Naw Ja explained, adding that the plan for the economic zone is projected over 50 years.

These villagers’ land plots were seized if they were located on the land designated for the Nam Jim project.

The Kachin State public land and project monitoring group was formed on November 1, 2019, with Kachin politicians, civil society representatives, legal advisors, and farmers.

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