In June, 3 residents affected by the Thilawa SEZ filed an official request for investigation into JICA’s compliance with its Environmental and Social Guidelines. One is currently being intimidated by local government officials with threats of a lawsuit if he does not immediately move from his residence in the Phase 1 area of the Thilawa SEZ.
Mekong Watch has send an appeal to JICA for immediate action. We are very concerned that one of the requesters for the investigation is being intimidated. To protect his rights, as well as to uphold the integrity of JICA’s Objection Procedure, we believe it is of utmost importance that JICA takes immediate action to ensure that in particular those who utilize the procedure do not face such negative consequences.
The contents of our appeal are as below:
(English translation of Japanese Original. Translation by Mekong Watch)
September 18, 2014
Mr. Akihiko Tanaka, President
Japan International Cooperation Agency
Regarding Alleged Human Rights Violations Against
Resident who Filed Objection regarding
Burma (Myanmar) Thilawa SEZ Development Project
Kenji Fukuda, Representative Director
After 3 residents filed a formal objection with the Examiners for the Guidelines (hereafter the Examiner) on June 2nd in regard to the Burma (Myanmar) Thilawa Special Economic Zone (Class A Area) Development Project for which JICA is providing private sector investment financing, and the preparatory survey now underway for the Thilawa SEZ Development Project, formal investigation procedures began on July 5th. The investigation was to be completed on September 4th, but was extended for 2 months. We understand that the investigation procedures are currently still underway.
To date, we have exchanged opinions through discussions with the Examiner and submitted papers regarding the Examiner’s investigation into the facts about compliance with JICA’s Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations (hereafter the Guidelines) and the consultation processes among relevant parties. During this investigation period, human rights violations of grave concern are taking place, and we are submitting this letter to call for immediate measures to be taken.
Among the 3 residents filing a request for investigation (hereafter Requesters), as reported in the Request for Investigation itself as well as during an interview with the Examiner, one Requester has received a portion of his compensation, but because it is clear he cannot maintain his current standard of living at the resettlement site, he has refrained from accepting the remaining compensation, and has continued living in the Phase 1 (400 hectare) area of the SEZ. He has also continued to request appropriate compensation and livelihood restoration measures so that it will be possible for him to maintain his standard of living at the resettlement site.
<Human Rights Violations>
- August 22, 2014
The Yangon Region Government called the above Requester to a government office and told him that he must accept the remaining compensation and move. They also told him that if he did not do so, the government would sue him in court.
- September 11, 2014
High officers from the Yangon Region Government and Thanlyin Township, and the village head of Alwan Sot visited the above Requester’s residence in the 400 hectare area and told him since he had already accepted part of the compensation, he should move as soon as possible to the relocation site. He was also told to accept the rest of the compensation package. He was shown something in writing and told that it was an order for a lawsuit. The Requester is not sufficiently literate to read the notice and therefore could not confirm the content. The officials did not leave a copy of the notice with him, so at present, he still have not been able to confirm what was written in it.
After the 3 Requesters filed their request for investigation, the local residents’ group, local government officials and JICA have met on 2 occasions. This has not, however, yet led to implementation of concrete measures to restore livelihood at the resettlement site. We are gravely concerned that local authorities are using language and taking actions that can be clearly construed as intimidation. Even if the Burmese authorities’ intention was only to explain certain processes, it is necessary to keep in mind that many villagers having lived for decades under a military regime feel they have no choice but to accept what the government promises. It is therefore also important to consider these people as a “socially vulnerable group” as stated in the Guidelines, and be aware that the government’s position and the way local people interpret the government’s actions can be different,
Also, the fact that a Requester is being intimidated and harassed in this way could be interpreted by others as a risk to filing requests for investigation, even though it has not been determined if there is a direct link in this case. If this is not addressed, it could lead to future distrust in and hence decreased effectiveness of JICA’s Objection Procedure.
We therefore insist that JICA immediately raise these facts with the Burmese authorities and make it clear that residents must not be intimidated or verbally or with actions such as threats of lawsuits, forced eviction and other forcible measures. JICA should also ensure that the Burmese government continues consultations being held with affected people until concrete and practical measures to restore livelihood at the resettlement site are implemented
Thank you for your consideration of this matter and we strongly urge you to take immediate action.
3F Aoki Bldg. 1-12-11 Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0015}
Tel: 03-3832-5034, Fax: 03-3832-5039
CC: Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Fumio Kishida
JICA Examiners for the Guidelines
JICA Advisory Committee for the Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations, All Committee Members
 During a meeting with the Examiner on July 19, the Requester explained the process through which he signed the compensation agreement. He had not wanted to sign the compensation agreement due to having no alternative place to raise his livestock and wanting a larger area in which to live. After being told that if he did not sign the agreement, it would lead to a lawsuit between him and the Yangon Region Government, however, he felt he had no choice but to sign and did so.