Communities in the Balance: Local Voices and Prospects for the Dawei Special Economic Zone Project

Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is an industrial development project in southern Myanmar that directly affects 43,000 people, only eight percent of whom consented to the project before it began. Less than one-third of those affected have received any information from the government or developers. The Dawei SEZ was suspended in 2013 following funding deficits and community opposition, but it may resume soon. This report documents how community members living in SEZ project areas understand the SEZ and what it might mean for their lives and livelihoods.

Community members who participated in this research expressed desire for the jobs, infrastructure, and financial compensation that they believe the project will bring. However, there are doubts about whether the SEZ really will bring these benefits to community members. This report shows that what community members want is arguably not the SEZ itself but rather the benefits they associate with it: employment, material progress, and economic security. However, there is some evidence that the project may worsen the insecurity of community members’ lives and livelihoods and that it is possible, maybe even necessary, to achieve those things without the SEZ at all.

The report focuses on four key areas of research: information access, livelihoods, employment, and gender. It shows that community members are calling for the following:

  • Clear, systematic, and equal access to information
  • Open, equitable, and fair compensation processes
  • No relocation without equal or better quality of life
  • Investment in jobs and in infrastructure that benefits community members themselves
  • Cooperation across lines of power, class, age, and gender – for a better future in Dawei

Download full report in English HERE.

Download full report in Burmese HERE.

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