Dawei Special Economic Zone is an industrial development project in southern Myanmar. It is one of three SEZs in Myanmar that are designed to attract businesses by lowering environmental regulations, offering tax breaks, and waving minimum wage requirements. If completed, the SEZ will include a deep-sea port, an oil refinery, a steel mill, fertilizer and petrochemical plants, industrial factories and operations, a reservoir and a road connecting Dawei to Kanjanaburi, Thailand. If completed, it would be one of the largest industrial zones in Southeast Asia.
Dawei SEZ would directly affect 43,000 residents, most of whom have not received enough information about the project, nor have they been consulted. Only 8 percent of those affected consented to the project before it began and less than one-third of those affected received any information from the government or developers. Many of the communities in these SEZs are speaking out against what they see as land grabs, abuse and exploitation on the part of investors and project managers. Over 70 percent of those affected depend on their land for their livelihoods and most of these families will lose all or some of their land to the SEZ.
EarthRights has worked with local civil society organization Dawei Development Association (DDA) and frontline communities to bring the case of Dawei SEZ to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). The complaint to the NHRCT alleged that Thai developers and investors have been party to environmental and human rights violations, including violations of rights of indigenous peoples, land rights and rights to information and proper consultation. The NHRCT has issued a report acknowledging some rights violations and impacts of Dawei SEZ and continues to investigate the responsible corporations and government bodies. EarthRights participates in a coalition of Thai NGOs and CSOs that calls for transparency and accountability for Thai regional investors called Thai Extraterritorial Obligation Watch.
Dawei SEZ Company
In May, the Myanmar and Thai governments sign a Memorandum of Understanding to begin developing the project.
Local communities begin to claim that construction and project development are infringing on and damaging their lands.
A 60-year land concession is granted to Italian-Thai Development Plc. (ITD). ITD begins working through Dawei Development Company Ltd. (DDC), a joint venture established by ITD (75 percent ownership) and Max Myanmar (25 percent ownership).
In December, DDA begins organizing resistance to the project, asking that it adhere to sustainable development principles, protect the environment and leave local livelihoods intact. DDA also calls for Environmental and Social Impact Assessments.
In January, a coalition of 18 Thai CSOs launches a campaign to question the Thai government’s decision to invest public funds in the Dawei seaport and industrial areas. The coalition also voiced concerns about the environmental and social impacts of Dawei SEZ and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s plan to purchase power from Myanmar.
Following advocacy by DDA and local communities, U Khin Maung Soe, Myanmar’s Minister of Electric Power, stated publicly that a 4,000MW coal-fired power plant in Dawei would not be allowed due to its negative environmental impacts.
In July, Max Myanmar withdrew its investment in DDC.
In October, Thailand’s Minister of Industry confirmed that Japan will be a leading partner in developing Dawei SEZ.
In March, DDA and communities affected by Dawei SEZ filed a complaint with the NHRCT regarding human rights abuses, forced evictions, lack of consultation, restricted access to information and inadequate compensation. The complaint letter highlighted alleged misconduct by Thai companies and related government agencies.
Submission by Dawei Development Association to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand: Concerns on Violation of Human Rights and Community Rights related to Dawei Deep Sea Port and Special Economic Zone Project (Annex II).
In May, DDA submitted a letter voicing their concerns about the project to leaders in the Japanese Government, including Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The letter warned that if Japan is involved in Dawei SEZ in any way, the country and relevant officials would be responsible for any environmental and human rights violations associated with the project.
In June, the NHRCT visits Dawei to study the impact of the SEZ and conduct fact-finding.
In November, due to lack a lack of funding, the concession to ITD was cancelled and a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the Dawei SEZ Company, was established by the Thai and Myanmar governments in equal shares to manage the SEZ project. The Dawei SEZ Company works to attract and advise investors, especially foreign c. The company also grants concessions for specific projects in the SEZ (such as the deep-sea port, electricity or rail links) and encourages foreign companies, too.
In October, communities affected by Dawei SEZ testified at a public hearing at the NHRCT about the human rights and environmental impacts of the project. Dawei Development Association (DDA), a local civil society group, and community representatives brought a report to the NHRCT documenting their concerns around the SEZ, entitled “Voices From the Ground: Concerns Over the Dawei Special Economic Zone and Related Projects.”
In November, the NHRCT delivered a report on their investigation of DDA’s complaint. It concluded that the construction of Dawei SEZ had “caused human rights violations to Myanmar people without providing fair and just compensation or remedy.” It confirmed that villagers had lost their land, homes and access to their livelihoods. It also alleged that ITD had violated the human rights of Myanmar people. The report acknowledged that ITD, as a defendant, was no longer involved in the SEZ.
In February, the NHRCT visited Dawei to observe the impacts of Thai investments in the area.
Voices from the Ground: Concerns over the Dawei Special Economic Zone and Related Projects
Report of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand Complaint Consideration to Propose on Policy Recommendations
SEZs and Value Extraction from the Mekong: A Case Study on the Control and Exploitation of Land and Labour in Cambodia and Myanmar’s Special Economic Zones
Dawei Special Economic Zone