No Transparency With Namjim Industrial Zone, Monitoring Groups Say

Monday, June 29, 2020

Locals and civil society organizations have criticized the lack of transparency surrounding the implementation of the Namjim Industrial Zone in Kachin State’s Myitkyina Township by both the state government and a Chinese company.

The industrial zone is located in Namjim village, and locals from the community say that they have repeatedly sent complaint letters to the Kachin State government about the project.

“We already sent letters. They did not reply,” Namjim resident Mer Ner Si said. “They came to measure land plots in 2019. The vice president visited in November 2019, but we were not allowed to meet him. We don’t know about the Chinese company that will build the Namjim project. We heard that they would come to compensate us in March, but they didn’t. We don’t have clear information about this project. We don’t want this project.”

Gum Ja, another Namjim resident, said that he stands to lose his livelihood if the plans for the industrial zone goes ahead.

“I planted medicinal trees, teak trees, rubber, agarwood, and djenkol trees in my garden… I can make money from them for my family,” he explained. “We decided that we would only sign on in agreement if all of the farmers agreed to it. I think that the government needs to explain to us more about this project. We already sent our petition letter to the state government with the signatures of all of the farmers.”

The Sandhi Governance Institute launched a report on the Namjim Industrial Zone on June 9 and held an online discussion on its findings. They reported risks around the construction, operation, finance and maintenance of the project, as well as grave risks to the environment.

The institute said that they found data linking the Yunnan Tengchong Heng Yong Investment Company (YTHIC) to the project.

“We need to look at the developer company, as to how they will implement, invest, draw up plans, and so on. We have to look at the background of the company. We have to look at how much the company will bring in to start funding this project, and which bank is behind this company,” Khine Win, Sandhi’s CEO, told NMG.

From online research, he said little data is available about YTHIC.

“On YTHIC’s website, they posted about the signing of the MoU, the meeting with previous finance minister U Kyaw Win and the meeting with the Kachin State government. We are worried about whether they have capacity to develop this project,” Khine Win said.

The industrial zone spans 4,700 acres, or 2,000 hectares, he explained, describing it as “too large,” and pointing out that the Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon is 400 hectares.

“I have doubts about this Namjim project because it’s too large to develop. We haven’t seen financial statements about this project. For construction, they will bring construction equipment and materials from China as well as Chinese workers will come in. I think it’s too dangerous,” Khine Win said, referring to the activities that would take place during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The industrial zone is supposed to house more than 500 factories in 5,000 buildings and is considered part of the infrastructure in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, within China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It has been described by civil society organizations as threatening local livelihoods, land access, and culture and traditions of the area.