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Kyaukphyu Port, Rakhine State, Myanmar


The city of Kyaukphyu, a major town in Rakhine state, in Western Myanmar, is located in a privileged area in the Bay of Bengal. Nestled between India and China, Kyaukphyu is poised to become one of the major global trade hubs in the near future. 

After two years of negotiations, the Myanmar government signed in November 2018 a framework agreement with China’s state-owned CITIC Group to develop a Deep Sea Port in the area, that will be key to boost the trade between China and the West [1]. 

The port will give China access to the Indian Ocean and will become the shortest and most economical gateway for trading goods between China and India. The new route will save about 5,000km in sailing distance for shipments traveling between China and India [2]. Thus, the Kyaukphyu port is a key project in the China Belt and Road Initiative, a government plan to expand Chinese influence in more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, through infrastructure projects. 

However, many in Myanmar worry about the preferential rights that will be given to China in the project and the debt that it might create for the country. According to a Reuters investigation [3], Beijing pushed for preferential access to the deep sea port, taking a 70-85 percent stake in the project, whose cost was estimated at the beginning at $7.3 billion [4]. The Myanmar government would have proposed a 50/50 joint venture, an offer rejected by CITIC, according to the news agency. Eventually, the cost of the project was reduced to $1.3 billion [5]. 

The economic zone faces opposition from activists and residents who criticized the tender process for its alleged lack of transparency and said the development would have a negative impact on local people [6]. 

Other controversial projects are linked to the port. Thus, the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port is the first stage of the Kyaukphyu project that will also include a Special Economic Zone that will be built later on [7]. The Special Economic Zone will put about 20,000 people at risk of losing their homes due to land acquisition for the zone, according to the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights watchdog [8]. 

The port in Rakhine State will also be the entry port for the Shwe oil-gas pipeline that will send the oil brought from the Middle East to China, after being stored at the port. In September 2018, the Myanmar government also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor that will connect Kunming, in Yunnan Province in Southern China, to the Kyaukphyu port [9].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Kyaukphyu Port, Rakhine State, Myanmar
State or province:Rakhine State
Location of conflict:Kyaukpyu city
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Transport services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Area: 243 hectares (this is the area that the government reserved for the project in 2015. Back then, the project consisted of two deep sea ports. The government has decided to downsize the project and today the area that the port will cover is unclear) [10] [11]

Port capacity: 4.8 million tons of bulk cargo and 4.9 million TEU containers [12]

Project area:243
Level of Investment:1, 300, 000, 000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:20,000 (Deep Sea Port and related Special Economic Zone)
Start of the conflict:01/09/2013
Company names or state enterprises:CITIC Group from China
Relevant government actors:Government of Myanmar, Myanmar's Commerce Ministry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Commission of Jurists (, Kyaukphyu Regional Development Association

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsConcerns over increased debt


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:The project was downsized
Development of alternatives:The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has recommended a moratorium on all the Special Economic Zones and to suspend the land
acquisition process in Kyaukphyu
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is going ahead, even though it has been downsized.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2014 Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[6] Kyaukphyu port: What happens next?, Myanmar Times, November 9, 2018

[2] Five things you should know about China-backed port in Myanmar, South China Morning Post, May 9, 2017

[7] Kyaukphyu SEZ project comes after Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port project, October 9, 2018


[12] Myanmar negotiating with Chinese consortium on deep-sea port project in Rakhine state, Xinhua, July 8, 2018

[9] Gov’t Signs MoU with Beijing to Build China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, The Irrawaddy, September 13 2018

[11] Myanmar: China agrees to continue Kyaukpyu project based on results, Eleven Myanmar, Oct 5 2018

[5] Myanmar scales back Chinese-backed port project over debt fears, The Guardian, August 2, 2018

[8] Myanmar: amend Special Economic Zones Law to protect human rights – new ICJ report, February 2017

[10] Govt reserves land for Rakhine state SEZ, Myanmar Times, Dec 7 2015

[4] Exclusive: China seeks up to 85 percent stake in strategic port in Myanmar, Reuters, May 5, 2017

Meta information

Contributor:Laura Villadiego, Carro de Combate, [email protected]
Last update14/01/2019



Signing of the agreement to develop the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port

Ceremony for the signing of the agreement to develop the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port between the Myanmar Government and CITIC group Source: Myanmar Government

Demo of the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port

Demo of the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port. Myanmar Government (

View of the Kyaukpyu port from the above

View of the Kyaukpyu port in January 2018 from the above, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (