29km away from the capital of Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region, Dawei, an earth track sneaks through some small fishing villages before adjoining the Andaman Sea at Thabawseik, one of Tanintharyi’s most vibrant fishing ports.
Every morning before sunrise, Thabawseik becomes lively with local trade of a variety of fish under the dimmed light of the lamps and flashlights. Fish from both big and small fishing boats will be loaded on the beach. Local traders then will rush to come pick them with piles of banknotes set aside Grouper, Short bodied Mackerel, Sea Bass and etc.
Thabawseik is truly a prime source of food and income of local residents. Under the morning light, those tons of fish lie on the beach waiting for traders to take them for sale in the market, the scene that resonates the mood of an ancient fishing port, which endures the passage of time.
This is almost the same place where the Myanmar-Thailand joint mega project Dawei Special Economic Zone and a deep sea port were first initiated in 2008. Expected to be the largest sea port in Southeast Asia, Dawei SEZ is seen by investors as being capable of playing a role in terms of regional integration across ASEAN. They claim Dawei SEZ would complete the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Southern Economic Corridor and establish regional connectivity and land bridge between Dawei, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh.
The project, however, has faced a stumbling block, largely due to financial difficulties. It has been on and off with the latest attempt by Thailand’s Ministry of Transport, which has pushed for development of the road link to Dawei with the Bt 4.5 billion loan set aside.
The project, although being on and off, has certainly left people with a deep thought. While some said Dawei SEZ would bring prosperity and growth to Dawei, others also said they were worried about changes that would come to their town.
Amid doubts, Thabawseik too is waiting to face its fate. No body knows, in the next ten years, whether there would still be a place where fish from the sea can still be loaded on the beach for local people to come pick as their source of food and income.
There are no clear answers for them at Thabawseik today.