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MSPP Oil Palm plantation in Tanintharyi region, Myanmar


Oil palm monocultures have expanded rapidly in Myanmar over the last decades. In Tanintharyi region, more than 1.8 million acres (728,434 ha) of land have been awarded for oil palm plantations, often to companies with close ties to the military. Expansion has further increased recently through the arrival of foreign direct investment into the country. This expansion has provoked large human rights abuses and environmental destruction, as the case of the Myanmar Stark Prestige Plantation (MSPP) Oil Palm concessions shows [1,2,3]. The development and impacts of the MSPP concession have been documented in detail through the Green Desert report (see [1]), produced by local civil society organizations. 

MSPP was granted a permit by the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) to establish a 38,000 acres (15,378 ha) oil palm project in the year 2011. The project is in an area marked by more than six decades of civil war between the central government and the Karen National Union (KNU). The preliminary ceasefire agreement, signed by both parties in 2012, brought an end to the massive human rights violation caused during the civil war. However, it also opened former war zones with weak land tenure to foreign direct investments, which have caused new negative impacts for communities and the environment. Located in an area under mixed administration of both the Myanmar government and the KNU, villagers are even more vulnerable to the concession development, as the two governments shift the blame and responsibilities among them [1]. 

The concession was granted in a non-transparent way and has caused large social and environmental impacts. The concession development did not comply with domestic law or with international human rights principles. No free prior informed consent (FPIC) with affected communities was obtained and the area was incorrectly classified by the central government as ‘vacant land’. This has led to severe conflicts over encroachment of indigenous customary land - the project area overlaps with agricultural and community land of four villages, home to approx. 4,480 people. Since 2011, about 6,000 acres (2,428 ha) were cleared by the company, including betel-nut and cashew orchards belonging to villagers. Loss of productive land has resulted in livelihood loss and increased debt levels as many villagers have been unable to meet their basic needs. Some were forced to become day laborers for low wages [1]. Money offered by the company to compensate damages was too little and many villagers refused the compensation [1,3].

Fertilizer and pesticides use have moreover caused water pollution. While some wells were constructed by the company to deal with the declining availability of clean water sources, some of the wells were soon polluted by animal feces due to poor design. Consequently, villagers reported livestock dying, skin irritations and dysentery. Furthermore, the company has been involved in aggressive timber logging, leading to deforestation and clear cutting of natural forests. To establish the plantation, high value timber stocks were first logged and retrieved from the area. Remaining vegetation was then burnt to establish the palm oil cultivation. 

The affected communities organized themselves, held large meetings and protested in many ways to show that they did not accept their land being taken. Religious prayer ceremonies were held. Several complaints were filed to the company, to KNU officers, to the regional government and to the central government, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. However, no meaningful responses followed. In February 2015, affected communities invited media groups to share their case and also met with lawyers to discuss their legal options. Villagers furthermore started to document in a detailed way their losses caused by the company. 

In March 2015, the KNU Mergui – Tavoy district issued an order to halt operations; however, the company continued operations. In April 2016, affected communities submitted complaints over the MSPP plantation to the Tanintharyi Joint Meeting Committee (JMC), responsible for monitoring complaints in the area. Following a subsequent meeting in July 2016, the Tanintharyi Township Police office sent a letter to MSPP, requesting to suspend operations temporarily. The company stopped further expansion. The suspension was a great achievement and offered an important opportunity to seek solutions in the MSPP land conflict. In December 2017, the Green Desert report (see [1]) was released through a collaboration of 12 civil society organizations. Based on 18 months of field work, the report detailed many of the concerns associated with the plantation. It was presented to the central government and received large media coverage.

As of early 2018, further expansion of the oil palm plantation has been limited by the authorities, however the remaining concession land has not been returned to the communities. Concerns over forest clearance and timber logging continue despite of the suspension. Negotiations between the communities, the company and the government are ongoing. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:MSPP Oil Palm plantation in Tanintharyi region, Myanmar
State or province:Tanintharyi region
Location of conflict:Tanintharyi Township, Myeik District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Logging and non timber extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Myanmar Stark Prestige Plantation (MSPP) project is located in Tanintharyi Township, Myeik District. The Karen National Union (KNU) administers this area as Ler Muh Lah Township, Mergui-Tavoy District. Four villages are located within the concession area: Thein Pyin, Kawat, Baw Sa Nway, and Swae Chaung Wa [1].

The MSPP project is a joint venture between Malaysia-based Prestige Platform (95%) and the Myanmar-based Stark Industries (5%). According to the Green Desert Report, the Prestige Platform is a subsidiary of Glenealy Plantations, which is owned by Samling Group. Stark Industries was founded by Mya Thida Sway Tin, a businesswoman with connections to military and business elites. The investment size is reported to amount to 36.75 million USD [1].

The MSPP project is financed by Maybank, Malaysia that issued 124 million USD in bonds to Glenealy Plantations. Maybank itself is financed by several international funds and entities, such as the Norwegian Pension Fund, the Japan Bank of Cooperation and Development (JBIC), and others.

The 30-year permit granted by the Myanmar Investment Commission in 2011 amounts to 38,000 acres (15,378 ha). However, the project signboard, erected in 2014, lists the concession area with 42,200 acres (17,077ha), while a company map (2015) shows an area of 49,227 acres (19,921 ha) [1].

Project area:15,378
Level of Investment for the conflictive project36,750,000 USD
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:4,480
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Stark Industries Co. from Myanmar - operating company - joint venture partner
Prestige Platform Co. from Malaysia - operating company - joint venture partner
Glenealy Plantaions Co. from Malaysia - parent company
Samling Group from Malaysia
Relevant government actors:Myanmar Central Government
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC)
Karen National Union (KNU)
International and Finance InstitutionsMaybank from Malaysia - appears as potential funder of the MSPP parent companies
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Main organizations:
Southern Youth,
Candle Light,
Khaing Myae Thitsar,
Myeik Lawyer Network
Dawei Development Association
Supporting organizations:
Inclusive Development International (IDI)
Earth Rights International (ERI)
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
and others

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
ehtnic Karen
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsWater pollution through fertilizers, pesticides and animal faeces caused livestock dying, skin irritations and dysentery.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
compensation was below fair standards
Proposal and development of alternatives:Groups argue for a moratorium of oil palm plantations until functioning safeguards are in place to protect both communities and the environment. More generally groups call for a moratorium on large-scale investment projects in conflict areas until strong and inclusive governance mechanisms are in place. For further recommendations, see the Green Desert report, published in December 2016 [1].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The social mobilizations had significant impact on raising awareness about oil palm expansion in the region. The expansion of the project has been temporarily suspended, however, the concession area was not returned to the villagers.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

2012 Foreign Investment Law

2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law,%20Fallow%20.....%20Land%20Law.pdf

2012 Environmental Conservation Law

2015 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Procedure

1991 Procedures Conferring the Right to Cultivate Land

2014 Environmental Conservation Rules

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] GREEN Desert: Communities in Tanintharyi renounce the MSPP Oil Palm Concession. Report published in December 2016, by Tarkapaw, TRIP NET, Southern Youth, Candle Light, Khaing Myae Thitsar, Myeik Lawyer Network and Dawei Development Association. (accessed online 14.04.2018).

[2] The Myanmar Times, online article, 24 November 2017. Malaysian company accused of abuses in Tanintharyi. (accessed online 14.04.2018)

[3] Eleven Myanmar online news, 13 May 2016. Tanintharyi villagers demand end to palm-oil project. (accessed online 14.04.2018).

Mighty Earth, 3 February 2017. Samling’s Forest Crime Spree Moves to Myanmar. (accessed online 14 April 2018).

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Green Desert documentary video

Meta information

Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3463



MSPP signboard

MSPP signboard in the concession area

Oil palm plantations and MSPP company buildings

Oil palm plantations and MSPP company buildings

Peaceful protests

Source: Green Desert report, see [1],

Peaceful protests

Source: Green Desert report, see [1],

Dead livestock

Source: Green Desert report, see [1],

Green Desert Report