The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has recently issued a report entitled “Special Economic Zones in Myanmar and the State Duty to Protect Human Rights.” In this report, they review the legal framework in which the SEZs in Myanmar are being developed, and provide an overview and analysis of the Kyauk Phyu SEZ being developed in Rakhine State. The report also lists recommendations for relevant actors. The recommendations include a moratorium on SEZ development until laws are amended to address weaknesses and contradictions in Myanmar’s SEZ legal framework.
Mekong Watch has been monitoring the Thilawa SEZ since 2013, and have recently been monitoring Japan’s involvement in the Dawei SEZ project, and the legal issues the ICJ points out are relevant to these two SEZ projects as well.
The ICJ finds that Myanmar’s 2014 SEZ Law is not sufficient to enable Myanmar to fulfill its obligations under international law. They point out that there are while there are laws specific to SEZs (SEZ Law, SEZ Rules), as well as national laws regarding land, environment and labor, which are relevant to SEZ development, the laws sometimes undermine each other, making it unclear where accountability lies. Myanmar is signatory to various international human rights conventions, and its domestic laws also require involuntary resettlement to meet the standards outlined by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. In some cases, the jurisdiction of different bodies contradict each other, and while it is generally clear who investors need to talk to, there is no clear accountability structure for people whose livelihoods put at risk or even destroyed.
The ICJ’s report was released February 27, 2017, and can be downloaded from this page on the ICJ site.