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Local Groups Demand Accountability Upon Japan’s Announcement of Official Involvement in the Dawei SEZ

By Mekong Watch  •  August 27, 2015

On August 4th, local community groups from Dawei (southern Burma) sent a letter to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) after Japan officially announced its involvement in the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) development project and related projects.

This is a joint letter submitted by 2 local groups and the Dawei Development Association (DDA), who sent a letter last April to warn Japanese government agencies  of the already existing problems and risks related to the project. Now that the Japanese government has officially joined the Dawei SEZ development project–in spite of the existing problems–the three groups not only raise concerns about expected future problems, but emphasize that Japan is now also responsible for addressing already existing and outstanding environmental and social impacts related to the project.

The letter also calls for the Japanese government to guarantee immediate commencement of meaningful consultations with local people so that local opinions and concerns can be incorporated into decision-making. The three groups also demand that the master plan and existing studies be disclosed so that local groups can voice their opinions about these studies.

On July 4th, Japan, Burma and Thailand signed a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) for development of the Dawei SEZ at the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting held in Tokyo, and Japan thus officially joined the project. The Dawei SEZ is an immense project. Once completed, it would be SE Asia’s largest industrial zone (20,451 hectares), but the project went through a period of uncertainty when the participating Thai investor pulled out in 2013 after a failure to raise sufficient funds for the project.

Now that the Japanese government and companies have become officially involved in the Dawei SEZ development project, they must respond appropriately to the demands of local people. They must listen carefully to local stakeholders, disclose information, and hold consultations.  They are accountable not only to their government counterparts, but also to the people their projects will impact.

Download the full letter in English here.

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This post is in: Press Release

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