Social Documentary Photography – Forcing Farmers Into Poverty Thilawa, Myanmar

Kyaw Win & family
“If I have land, I have food. If I have cows, I have food.” -Kyaw Win

This social documentary photography was submitted to Edge of Humanity Magazine by Documentary & Architecture Photographer Raphael Olschner.

From project “Thilawa Forced Relocation” by Raphael Olschner.

Click on any image to see Raphael’s portfolio and projects.

Impoverishment of relocated farmers at Thilawa Special Economic Zone

Myanmar is hoping to attract international investment with the construction of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Bulldozers are already flattening the land. They are forcibly removing the villagers who have been farming the land for generations. The farmers are relocated to a site where their old lifestyle is impossible. Houses are built right on top of each other, there is no land to farm or raise livestock. The government provided compensation, but this is neither enough to build a new house or to live off. The villagers were promised jobs but these have not materialised. With no adequate compensation and their livelihood taken away, the villagers are despairing with little hope for the future. All they want is new land to farm, or sufficient compensation to buy new land somewhere so they can get back their livelihoods and provide for the future.

In the village of Alwan Sot, only one house is left standing. It belongs to Kyaw Win. Building a new house at the relocation site has used up all the compensation money, and it’s still not finished. He is refusing to move his family until the authorities provide him with enough compensation to buy new land or give him new land to farm.

“The authorities told me to sell my cows. In the relocation area there is no place to keep cows. I can earn money when I have land and animals. I’m not interested in the project. I only want the land. I’m not interested in compensation, I just want land so I can continue farming and invest in my future. I will not move unless I am given enough compensation to buy land and start another farm.” “[If the authorities evict me], I have no hope for the future. The new house is not finished and I have debt. I have children and the government does not care about their future. I will not move, so I will probably go to jail. I have no choice.” “If I have land, I have food. If I have cows, I have food.” -Kyaw Win

“The authorities told me to sell my cows. In the relocation area there is no place to keep cows. I can earn money when I have land and animals. I’m not interested in the project. I only want the land. I’m not interested in compensation, I just want land so I can continue farming and invest in my future. I will not move unless I am given enough compensation to buy land and start another farm.”
“[If the authorities evict me], I have no hope for the future. The new house is not finished and I have debt. I have children and the government does not care about their future. I will not move, so I will probably go to jail. I have no choice.”
“If I have land, I have food. If I have cows, I have food.” -Kyaw Win

 Kyaw Win's daughter

Kyaw Win’s daughter

 Kyaw Win's daughter

Kyaw Win’s daughter

 Kyaw Win's daughter

Kyaw Win’s daughter

Kyaw Win overlooking farm

Kyaw Win overlooking farm

Kyaw Win's Farm

Kyaw Win’s Farm

Kyaw Win's Farm

Kyaw Win’s Farm

The relocation Site 

13) Relocation 4

21) Relocation 3

Relocation lack of space

Relocation lack of space

The villagers who have moved from Alwon Sot.

“School for the children will open next month. I’m worried about my children’s education. I have no idea how I can pay and when...At the original place there was a ferry that cost 2000 MMK per month that took my children to school. Now, in the new area, there is no ferry. The school also has limited capacity. I’m still waiting to see if my children can go to this school.” -Daw Lattchamee

“School for the children will open next month. I’m worried about my children’s education. I have no idea how I can pay and when…At the original place there was a ferry that cost 2000 MMK per month that took my children to school. Now, in the new area, there is no ferry. The school also has limited capacity. I’m still waiting to see if my children can go to this school.” -Daw Lattchamee

 “The government said young people could get jobs as drivers and the government will train them how to drive bulldozers, trucks and cars. But now the government says that to drive these vehicles, you need ten to fifteen years experience to work in this area.” -Aye Khaing Win

“The government said young people could get jobs as drivers and the government will train them how to drive bulldozers, trucks and cars. But now the government says that to drive these vehicles, you need ten to fifteen years experience to work in this area.” -Aye Khaing Win

 “They said they would build a training school in the village, but after relocation they said training will be in Yangon. If I go to training, who will take care of the children? Who will do the housework?”-Ma Martima

“We are now jobless and in debt. There will be more problems in the future. I used to work in the fields, I don’t know how to do any other job. I have no idea what I’m going to do in the future.”
“They said they would build a training school in the village, but after relocation they said training will be in Yangon. If I go to training, who will take care of the children? Who will do the housework?”-Ma Martima

“It’s hotter here and it’s very noisy at night. I often can’t sleep. The original place was much quieter.” -Myo Zaw Oo

Milk from our cows would bring in 4000-5000 MMK per day. We used to grow food and sell it at the market.” -Daw Sontaree

Milk from our cows would bring in 4000-5000 MMK per day. We used to grow food and sell it at the market.” -Daw Sontaree

Phase 2  Village 2

Alwon Sot was located in the 400 hectares phase 1 of the project. A further 2000 hectares has been earmarked for phase 2. The more than 4890 villagers of this area have not been relocated yet.

Alwon Sot was located in the 400 hectares phase 1 of the project. A further 2000 hectares has been earmarked for phase 2. The more than 4890 villagers of this area have not been relocated yet.

“I sometimes pray that the development stops. We are farmers. Without land, we cannot do anything. What can we do without land? If the project proceeds, we want land as compensation, not money. It is better for us to get land, not money.” -Myint Naing

“I sometimes pray that the development stops. We are farmers. Without land, we cannot do anything. What can we do without land? If the project proceeds, we want land as compensation, not money. It is better for us to get land, not money.” -Myint Naing

 Phase 2  Village 3

30) Phase 2 village 3

“If I don’t get equivalent compensation for what I already have, I will not move” -Myint Naing

“If I don’t get equivalent compensation for what I already have, I will not move” -Myint Naing

See also:

Reading In Myanmar

Portraits

By Raphael Olschner


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