Complaint to Japanese government over corporate backed project
Three residents from the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Myanmar, this week filed an official complaint with Japanese authorities over its role in the controversial project.
The Thilawa Special Economic Zone is an industrial complex being developed in Myanmar. It's the flagship project of the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA)and has had investment from leading electronics companies including Mitsubishi.
Residents who have been displaced to give way to the 400-hectare initial phase of the project complain of unfair relocation agreements and a cramped, flood-prone resettlement site with substandard housing and basic infrastructure.
The complaint delivered to the Japanese government sites a loss of farmland, loss of livelihood opportunities, impoverishment, loss of educational opportunities for the villagers’ children, substandard housing and basic infrastructure in the Myaing Tha Yar resettlement site and loss of access to clean water.
"The government and authorities are not listening to us villagers. We have tried to tell JICA how things really are in Thilawa by repeatedly submitting letters to JICA requesting appropriate resettlement and compensation measures, as required by their Guidelines and international standards. JICA has not listened to our voices. That’s why we submitted the Objection today. We hope that the examiner will investigate the real situation in Thilawa and the project’s compliance of JICA Guidelines,” said Mya Hlaing, the leader of the Thilawa Social Development Group.
The Objection to JICA also detailed the agency’s non-compliance with its own Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations, including failing to assume responsibility for accountability for the project’s implementation. In the resettlement process, JICA failed to provide compensation to resettled persons at replacement cost in a timely manner and did not provide any compensation for confiscated land, accepting the Myanmar Government’s claims of legally acquiring the land rather than conducting its own investigation. Additionally, JICA has not upheld its responsibility to improve or at least restore displaced persons’ standard of living, income opportunities and production levels. It also has not ensured that displaced persons were able to meaningfully and appropriately participate in the development, implementation, and monitoring of resettlement plans.
JICA has invested around 500 million yen, a 10% stake, in the Thilawa SEZ Development Project. Three Japanese companies, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Marubeni, hold an additional 39% stake. The Myanmar Government and a joint venture of 9 Myanmar companies have invested the remaining 10% and 41% respectively.
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