Local groups demand accountability upon Japan’s announcement of official involvement in the Dawei SEZ

On August 4th, local community groups from Dawei (southern Burma) sent a letter to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) after Japan officially announced its involvement in the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development project and related projects.

This is a joint letter submitted by 2 local groups and the Dawei Development Association (DDA), who sent a letter last April to warn Japanese government agencies  of the already existing problems and risks related to the project. Now that the Japanese government has officially joined the Dawei SEZ development project–in spite of the existing problems–the three groups not only raise concerns about expected future problems, but emphasize that Japan is now also responsible for addressing already existing and outstanding environmental and social impacts related to the project.

The letter also calls for the Japanese government to guarantee immediate commencement of meaningful consultations with local people so that local opinions and concerns can be incorporated into decision-making. The three groups also demand that the master plan and existing studies be disclosed so that local groups can voice their opinions about these studies.

On July 4th, Japan, Burma and Thailand signed a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) for development of the Dawei SEZ at the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting held in Tokyo, and Japan thus officially joined the project. The Dawei SEZ is an immense project. Once completed, it would be SE Asia’s largest industrial zone (20,451 hectares), but the project went through a period of uncertainty when the participating Thai investor pulled out in 2013 after a failure to raise sufficient funds for the project.

Now that the Japanese government and companies have become officially involved in the Dawei SEZ development project, they must respond appropriately to the demands of local people. They must listen carefully to local stakeholders, disclose information, and hold consultations.  They are accountable not only to their government counterparts, but also to the people their projects will impact.

To see the original August 4th letter:

Download the letter in PDF format: DDA letter to Japan Gov, JICA and JBIC

Or read below:

Mr. Fumio KISHIDA, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Akihiko TANAKA,President of Japan International Cooperation Agency
Mr. Hiroshi Watanabe, Governor of Japan Bank for International Cooperation

CC: Mr. Shinzo ABE, Prime Minister of Japan
Mr. Taro ASO, Minister of Finance
Mr.Yoichi Miyazawa,Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
Mr. Hiroyuki Ishige, Chairman of Japan External Trade Organization

August 4, 2015

Re: Call attention to local groups’ concerns on Japan’s Involvement in the Problematic Dawei Special Economic Zone Project and Related Projects in Myanmar

We, the Dawei Development Association (DDA) are writing to call attention to our letter (1) submitted to you on April 27, 2015 as we are deeply concerned about recent Japanese confirmation of its involvement in Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar, by signing the Memorandum of Intent (MoI) with Myanmar and Thai governments. As we mentioned in the previous letter,the development of these projects in Dawei have already led to serious social andenvironmental impacts and human rights violations on nearby communities. We have raised concerns on these challenges and have demanded that JICA and all potential Japanese stakeholders not take part in such problematic projects at this moment and halt Japanese involvement until the existing issues and problems have been adequately solved and plans are in place to avoid or mitigate any further negative impacts on local communities.

We would like to reiterate that DDA has conducted extensive research in the Dawei area and expects that people in 20 to 36 villages will be directly affected by the Dawei SEZ and related projects.2Based on the results of our quantitative and qualitative research in 20 villages directly affected by the Dawei SEZ projects, we found that the communities have lost farmlands and natural resources that are vital to their livelihoods, without receiving any prior information. There was no meaningful consultation with the affected villagers, and 74% of affected villagers surveyed responded that government did not take their consent to develop the DSEZ before starting the project. (3) There was also deeply flawed compensation process: Our research found that 63% (4) of the interviewee responded that government and company officials did not disclose accessible information about compensation and 59% did not receive documentation of the compensation payment. (5)

Furthermore, the Dawei SEZ developers to date have not adhered to relevant international, regional, and domestic legal obligations, standards, and other responsibilities in relation to forced evictions, rights to adequate food and housing, and indigenous peoples’ rights. If Japan is involved in the any project related to the Dawei SEZ, Japan must ensure first that these gaps are fully addressed.

In our previous letters, we have raised our concerns regarding Dawei SEZ and related projects to Japanese government and relevant stakeholders with the hope that you respect the local communities, and have also warned you on the political and economic risks of its involvement in the Dawei SEZ and related projects.

But we have found in the MoI signed on July 4, 2015, that Japanese government has already decided its involvement in Dawei SEZ and related projects mainly in the three ways: Making an equity investment in the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) through Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) or Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), cooperating in the elaboration of the existing Master Plan within 3 years by dispatching JICA experts to provide technical assistance, and conducting pre-feasibility study to explore ways of construction of the full-phase new highway road.

Thus, we would like to remind you that you must be accountable now for any existing environmental and social impacts and human rights violations caused by the projects, which Myanmar and Thai governments and companies have failed to addressed, as well as any further impacts to be caused by the projects in the future.

In addition, we would like you to ensure the meaningful consultations with the affected communities in the early stage of the project, or that the views and opinions of affected communities will be heard well and be incorporated into the decision-making process in the early stage of the projects. In this regard, we request that Japanese government or any relevant agency disclose or provide the following information, so that the communities can know more about the Japanese role and the project plan itself, and can participate in the decision-making process by providing their opinions;

A) The organizational structure of the SPV (How will Japanese agencies get involved in the committee and each sub-committees?);

B) The existing Master Plan;

C) The draft of the Terms of Reference (TOR) of pre-feasibility study about the full-phase new highway road (We assume that the project will be classified as Category A under the JICA Guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations, and are aware that the Guidelines require that “Prior to the implementation of preparatory surveys, JICA conducts field surveys and collects opinions and information from stakeholders for Category A projects, and incorporates the results into a TOR of the surveys.).

We appreciate your consideration of these matters and look forward to your response.

Yours respectfully,

– Dawei Development Association
– Takapaw
– Dawei Research Association

(1) See Annex 1
(2) For more information on the impacts to local communities by the Dawei SEZ and related projects, please see “Voices From the Ground: Concerns Over the Dawei Special Economic Zone and RelatedProjects,” available at http://www.ddamyanmar.com/?p=811.(3) Id.at page 38
(4) Id.at page 44
(5) Id.at page 47

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