EarthRights International (ERI) found serious flaws relating to land rights, resettlement, and environmental protection in the planning and development of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) near Yangon, Myanmar. These flaws and their impacts on displaced communities and the surrounding environment are documented in two new briefers publicly released today.
The first briefer, titled “Analysis of the Affected Communities’ Rights and Remedies Under Myanmar Law and JICA’s Guidelines,” explains how the confiscation of land and resettlement of residents to make way for the Thilawa SEZ are in violation of both Myanmar laws and the Guidelines of one of the key investors, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which incorporates international standards and best practices. The second briefer, titled “Analysis of EIA for Phase I of Thilawa SEZ,” exposes how the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted for the first phase of the Thilawa SEZ is inadequate and does not comply with JICA’s Guidelines or international best practice. Both briefers are available in English and Myanmar languages here.
“JICA, the Myanmar Government and private sector investors all have the responsibility to ensure that residents are compensated for the land they lost in accordance with domestic laws, that they are provided with adequate living conditions and livelihood opportunities in their resettlement site, and that the environment in and around the SEZ is not irreparably damaged,” said Jonathan Kaufman, ERI’s Legal Advocacy Coordinator. “Thilawa will be Myanmar’s first operational SEZ, and so far it is setting a bad precedent. We hope the key stakeholders will address the ongoing problems in Thilawa and ensure they aren’t repeated in the second phase of the project and elsewhere, such as in the Dawei and Kyauk Phyu SEZs.”
“We have analyzed the relevant laws and researched how the land was confiscated from the people, and have found that Myanmar laws have not been adequately followed,” said U Myint Thwin, Senior Legal Advisor for ERI. “The project developers must conduct an independent inquiry into the land rights of all people who have been resettled in the first phase of the Thilawa SEZ and those who are facing resettlement due to the second phase. Based on this, they must calculate compensation in a transparent manner following Myanmar laws and international standards.”
We recommend that in order to prevent and mitigate further environmental and social impacts of the Thilawa SEZ project, the Myanmar Government must require a new EIA for the first phase of the project, including cumulative impacts of factories in the SEZ, in line with international best practice and JICA’s Guidelines. All companies must conduct an EIA for their individual factories and the SEZ developers must do the same for the second phase of development, both in advance of any construction. All parties should commit to adopting the least environmentally damaging plan possible based on these EIAs. Moreover, developers and investors should include public participation at each stage of the process. Finally, the Myanmar Government should bring the environmental protection procedures required for individual companies in the SEZ in line with national legislation.
Resources in Myanmar Language:
Press Release in Myanmar Language
Analysis of the Affected Communities’ Rights and Remedies Under Myanmar Law and JICA’s Guidelines
Analysis of EIA for Phase I of Thilawa SEZ