January 23rd, 2021, Yangon, Myanmar. Seven families in Thilawa face eviction and possible arrest should they fail to vacate their homes starting today.
Communities being displaced by the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) deserve fair compensation for their lands and economic and social loss due to forced resettlement. The Government of Myanmar and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) must stop following military-era land grab tactics by attempting to force families to accept inadequate and inconsiderate ‘compensation.’
In the latest wave of evictions, on January 8th, 2021, these families living in Thilawa were threatened, both at an SEZ management committee meeting and via an official written notice. They would face a month’s imprisonment if they did not accept the one-sided resettlement plan proposed by the project partners and vacate their homes within 15 days.
Families have lived on this village land for generations and some were coerced into signing compensation agreements in 1996/97 for their farmland that did not reflect its value or the loss of livelihoods. Families from minority communities appear to continue to receive lower compensation.
Without acquiring land through a legitimate process or offering compensation that allows people to replace their losses, the Myanmar Government has relied on land for the SEZ being brought under “government management” by the military in 1996/7. The latest blatant intimidation and coercion to force an unfair compensation package is a worrying continuation of past appalling land grab policies. By relying on these tactics, the Myanmar Government and JICA, along with every investor in the SEZ, are benefiting from military-era land seizures – without accountability and breaching international standards.
EarthRights International calls on the Government of Myanmar and project partners to immediately end coercive methods of exploiting the affected people; the egregious violation of people’s rights must stop.
We implore the government and project partners to openly share accurate information on the SEZ development and engage with the communities of Thilawa as citizens with dignity. A fair compensation package must be agreed upon through a transparent process where communities can freely and safely express their concerns and needs.
Nipuna Kumbalathara; email@example.com