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December 12th, 2020, Yangon, Myanmar — EarthRights International stands with the Thiawa community’s call for the inclusion of their interests and accountability in implementing the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

On December 9th, 2020, they released an open letter demanding accountability and justice from the project partners implementing the Thilawa SEZ.

The project has deprived people of Thilawa of their ancestral homes, farmlands, and their ways of living, without any access to compensation. The community’s multiple ongoing attempts to engage with the government and investors have been met with lukewarm and inadequate responses so far.

The people of Thilawa have the right to know about the project’s plans, their concerns must be addressed, and they must be included in making decisions that affect their rights and wellbeing.

The community in Thilawa has come together despite attempts to keep them in the dark and stifle their voices. They have gathered as much information as they can, talked about the project’s impacts on their rights and daily lives, and proposed remedies. The years of committed hard work they have undertaken to propose a community-driven mechanism for grievances has so far gone unrecognized by the project partners.  The people’s efforts demonstrate both the importance and the capacities of communities to play a leading role in project implementation, impact monitoring, and seeking appropriate and fair remedies.

The legitimacy of the community-based organizations such as the Thilawa Social Development Organization, the Women’s Association, and the Grievance Mechanism Design Committee must be recognized. They need to be properly engaged by project partners to bring in local people’s voices. A process that genuinely shares information and seeks to solve the problems with the SEZ implementation will contribute to the design and implementation of an effective grievance mechanism that genuinely accounts for the community’s needs and demands.

EarthRights calls on the Government of Myanmar, donor governments and agencies, and all local and international project partners to respect and heed the community’s demands for a meaningful participatory mechanism. Such a mechanism must develop an inclusive rehabilitation plan that corrects the injustices, brings genuine opportunities, and has an overall positive impact on the lives of the people in Thilawa.

Read the community call: An open letter from Thilawa community for the lack of accountability from the officials in implementing Thilawa Special Economic Zone. 


Read more about the Thilawa Community’s struggles and how EarthRights works with them:


Nipuna Kumbalathara;