Myanmar: Thilawa economic zone launches complaint mechanism, NGO says it falls short of intl. standards; inc. responses from company & other agencies
The Thilawa special economic zone (SEZ), located 23 km southeast of Yangon, is the first large-scale SEZ in Myanmar and is being developed in phases under Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Ltd. (MJTD), a public-private partnership joint venture initiated by Myanmar and Japan. The first Zone A development started in late 2013, and there are currently nearly 90 investors in the Thilawa SEZ, with many more anticipated for Zone B. The development of Zone A affected 81 households, 68 of them relocated in late 2013 by the Myanmar Government. Some relocated villagers and civil society organizations were critical of the relocation process and the site, as it had a number of infrastructure problems early on, some of which have since been resolved. Concerns included loss of farmland and/or access to farmland; loss of livelihood opportunities; impoverishment; loss of educational opportunities; substandard housing and basic infrastructure; loss of access to adequate clean water. More information about the Thilawa SEZ can be found here.
Communities and people affected by the project have sought remedy through various means. In mid-2013, JICA commenced providing technical assistance for the Thilawa SEZ Management Committee (TSMC) and Yangon Regional Government (YRG), including with regard to complaints management. In October 2017, a Thilawa SEZ complaints review was undertaken in conjunction with TSMC and MJTD Community Relations personnel and with JICA support. As part of this process, more than 200 stakeholders within and external to the SEZ were consulted, including project affected peoples and communities. The outcome of the Thilawa SEZ Complaints Review was development of an integrated Thilawa SEZ Complaints Management Procedure (TCMP), which can be accessed here. More information about the process for creating the TCMP is available here.
Since 2013, EarthRights International (ERI) has been working with some community members impacted by the Thilawa SEZ, supporting efforts to access remedy. At a meeting in May 2015, community members in attendance elected a 16-member group to lead the design of a community-driven operational grevience mechanism, with the understanding that the mechanism would need broader community feedback and input, and that the final draft would need informed support and approval. In late 2016, the Design Committee completed a draft of the full CD-OGM design process steps; the draft and a diagram of the model is available here.
ERI has published an analysis of the TCMP, which it believes "falls severely short of international good practice."
In February 2018, the CD-OGM Design Committee sent a letter to MJTD requesting a meeting to work together to create a remedy mechanism that is satisfactory for the local community, project implementers, and investors.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Ltd., Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Yangon region government and Thilawa SEZ Management Committee to respond to ERI's analysis. Their statements are available below.