Asian Regional Investment

ERI works with a coalition of Thai NGOs and CSOs called Thai Extraterritorial Obligation Watch . We call for transparency and accountability for both Thai outbound investment and regional investment. ERI is also working with communities to engage Chinese and Japanese investors. Where laws on foreign investment and human rights are loose or unenforced, corporations have pushed destructive development projects. Developers carry out land grabs and dump pollutants, seeking to exploit areas with weaker regulations and less oversight than they might find in their home countries. But governments are obligated to regulate and rein in both development corporations and banks, whether they operate domestically or in neighboring countries.

ERI has supported local partners to file cases with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) regarding sugar plantations in Koh Kong, Cambodia and both the Heinda tin mine and the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Dawei, Myanmar. In 2016, Thailand’s Cabinet passed a resolution to promote business and human rights around Thailand’s transboundary investments in Southeast Asia, pledging to comply with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has said it will support the UNGP principles of “protect, respect and remedy,” and recommended that Thai investors comply with these principles. ERI has also supported partners in Cambodia to file a case with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia regarding the impact of the Don Sahong dam. In Myanmar, ERI participates in civil society coalitions calling for strong laws and accountability around investment and business practices in SEZs, including those in Dawei, Thilawa and Kyuak Phyu. ERI also monitors Southeast Asian investments outside of the region, building networks to collaborate on fighting dams and fossil fuel projects in the Amazon and Mekong river basins.

Dawei Special Economic Zone

In Dawei, Myanmar, ERI has worked with local civil society organization Dawei Development Association and frontline communities to bring the case of Dawei SEZ to the 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.

Heinda Tin Mine

The Heinda mine is tin-ore mining project in Dawei, Myanmar, operated by Thai firm Myanmar Pongpipat Company Limited (MPC) in partnership with the Myanmar state-owned firm Mining Enterprise No. 2. Since 2008, pollution from the Heinda mine and wastewater from the mine’s overflowing tailing ponds have allegedly damaged surrounding communities’ health and environment. ERI has provided legal advice around a complaint brought by the Dawei Pro Bono Lawyers Network and the affected communities to the NHRCT to hold MPC accountable for their actions and ensure that the company provides remedies to the communities. In February 2017, the NHRCT visited the Heinda mine area to investigate the complaint. The NHRCT case around the Heinda Mine is ongoing.

Koh Kong Sugar Plantation

In the mid-2000s in southwestern Cambodia, a violent land grab by sugar companies pushed 500 families off of their land, violating their rights to life, livelihoods and self-determination. In response, ERI and Cambodian CSO Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) worked with the affected communities in Koh Kong to bring a landmark case to the NHRCT. While companies from the U.K., the U.S. and Cambodia are also responsible for crimes in Koh Kong, the NHRCT case alleged that Thai corporation Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd. violated both Cambodian and international law. This was the first transboundary case accepted by the NHRCT.

The Don Sahong Dam

The Don Sahong dam is a hydropower project under construction on the mainstream of the Mekong River in southern Laos, less than two kilometers upstream from the border with Cambodia. If completed, the dam will have dire impacts on the livelihoods, food security and environment of communities both upstream and downstream of the project. In 2014, ERI and a coalition of NGOs filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia against Mega First Corporation Berhad, the Malaysian company developing the dam.