Controversial palm oil project sparks arguments

Letters were exchanged between the Taninthayi regional government and the Karen National Union (KNU) over a palm oil production project run by Myanmar Stark Prestige Plantation Co Ltd, in cooperation with a Malaysian company.

The debate started when company officials sent a complaint letter to the regional government claiming that the KNU demanded they shut down the plant, claiming it was built on the 40,000 acres of arable land without the KNU’s permission.

As it controls these lands, the KNU asked for 30 per cent of the profits from the project. Otherwise, the letter said, the KNU would not be liable for any tensions that might arise between KNU members and company staff employees.

The director of the regional government sent a letter to the KNU liaison office in Myeik, urging the KNU to solve the problem with maximum restraint.

However, Hpado Win Khaing, the KNU liaison officer, offered a different account: “It’s not true that we asked for 30 per cent of the profits from the company, and it is not also true that we demanded the company to shut down the project.”

He added that they just insisted the company to pause the project for a while and take time to negotiate with the indigenous people.

“We know the company has permission from the Myanmar Investment Commission. But the company has cleared the farmland without the knowledge of the locals. We’ve sent a letter to regional government to explain this matter,” the KNU official said.

The KNU urged the regional government to review the project. When the company began using its 42,200 acres of arable land for oil palm farming, the local farmers lost their crops in the process. They filed a complaint letter to the regional minister on January 24.

Source: Eleven Myanmar,

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