Myanmar: Thilawa Special Economic Zone – summary of impacts, company responses and updates

(This page will be updated as developments occur.)

The Thilawa Special Economic Zone is an industrial complex being developed 23 km southeast of Yangon city center in Myanmar. It is the flagship project of the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) in cooperation with the Myanmar Government and Japanese and Myanmar companies.

Residents displaced to give way to the 400-hectare initial phase of the project complain of unfair relocation agreements and a cramped, flood-prone resettlement site with substandard housing and basic infrastructure. Relocated residents say they have lost access to farmland and other livelihood opportunities, as well as access to clean water and educational opportunities for their children. Villagers also claim that JICA has not properly and sufficiently responded to them for their grievances. These impacts are likely to be incurred by residents on 2000 hectares of land to be covered in subsequent phases, and are feared to set the tone for future economic zone projects in the country.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies Marubeni, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo (which hold a 39% stake in the project through the special purpose company MMS Thilawa Development), as well as Toyota and Suzuki (which are reported to have bid for manufacturing facilities in the SEZ) to respond to the following items:

-       “Press Release: Japan Must Postpone Thilawa SEZ Financing Until Forced Displacement Reviewed”, US Campaign for Burma, 1 Apr 2014

-       [PDF] “JICA continues to ignore people affected by Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Burma (Myanmar); Mekong Watch appalled by JICA decision to provide Investment Financing for SEZ and calls for improved relocation and compensation measures to prevent deterioration of villagers’ living conditions”, Mekong Watch, 25 Apr 2014

-       “Thilawa Villagers Ask JICA for Written Response”, Mekong Watch, 1 May 2014

Responses and non-responses
-       [PDF] Marubeni response
-       [PDF] Mitsubishi response
-       [PDF] Sumitomo response
-       Suzuki did not respond
-       [PDF] Toyota response

JICA response
A 29 May 2014 report states that JICA acknowledges problems with the resettlement effort but insists the project conforms to its own and to other international aid standards. A JICA advisor said, “it’s the Myanmar government that has to settle the situation.”

Updates
On 2 June 2014, Thilawa residents filed an Objection to the Examiner for JICA – the first known formal complaint filed under JICA’s Objection Procedures since its restructuring in 2008. [The Myanmar version of the press release is available here.]

A JICA spokesperson said that appropriate measures have been taken in funding the project and the agency would study the complaint and act appropriately. The spokesperson likewise said that it’s important that the Myanmar Government deal with the issue first.

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Related stories and components

Report
26 January 2015
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Author: Mekong Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Thilawa Social Development Group

ティラワ経済特別区(SEZ)(アルワンソ村、および、ティラワ・コーンタン村を含む)の一例は、ビルマでの開発事業が地域住民の人権にあたえる負の影響をあらわしている。この SEZ はラングーン(ヤンゴン)から南へ約 15 マイル(25 キロメートル)にあるティラワ港のそばに位置しており、工場用地へと開発される予定の 2,400 ヘクタールの農地からなる。この地区の一部(フェーズ 1 区域)の開発を行なうため、日本政府と日本の 3 企業は、ビルマ政府、および、ビルマの企業連合体と提携した...

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Article
19 November 2014

Investigation report by the JICA Examiner on the Thilawa Special Economic Zone Project

Author: Examiner for the JICA guidelines for environmental and social considerations

“Investigation Report: Thilawa Special Economic Zone Development Project In The Republic of the Union of Myanmar”, November 2014...

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Article
19 November 2014

Myanmar: Residents say JICA Examiner's report on social impacts of Thilawa economic zone resettlement is “inadequate” & “overly optimistic”

Author: Yen Snaing, Irrawaddy (Myanamar)

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Article
17 November 2014

Myanmar: Report shows higher rates of hunger & sickness, substandard conditions in Thilawa economic zone relocation site

Author: Mekong Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Thilawa Social Development Group

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Article
30 September 2014

Myanmar: Last holdout resident in Phase 1 of Thilawa economic zone charged with trespassing

Author: Yen Snaing, Irrawaddy (Myanamar)

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Article
22 July 2014

Myanmar: Investigator visits Yangon, meets with displaced villagers over complaint filed under JICA’s objection procedures

Author: Yen Snaing, Irrawaddy (Myanamar)

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Company response
11 June 2014

Marubeni response

Author: Marubeni

...While the ultimate responsibility for implementing the resettlement of the inhabitants from the 2,400 hectare area, inclusive of the Class A Area, rests with the government of Myanmar, Marubeni, MMSTD and MJTD recognize the importance of the fair...

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Company response
7 June 2014

Sumitomo response

Author: Sumitomo

...While the ultimate responsibility for implementing the resettlement of the inhabitants from the 2,400 hectare area, inclusive of the Class A Area, rests with the government of Myanmar, Marubeni, MMSTD and MJTD recognize the importance of the fair...

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Company response
3 June 2014

Response by Mitsubishi Group: re impact of industrial complex development in Myanmar

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Company response
1 May 2014

Response by Toyota: re impact of industrial complex development in Myanmar

Read full response