March 18th, 2015
HART Report – Large-scale developments in Burma: Uncovering Trends in Human Rights Abuse
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Burma has been increasing rapidly since the international community lifted sanctions, following limited democratic reforms in 2011. Large-scale developments in the form of mines, dams, roads and railways are springing up over the country as investors battle for a slice of Burma’s rich natural resources.
Whilst investment could be viewed as an opportunity for economic development to thrive in Burma, the reality is far from positive. Projects to date have not been managed sustainably by either companies or the Burmese Government, leading to a multitude of human rights abuses.
Local people have been largely excluded from the decision-making process and many have suffered forced relocation, forced evictions and unimaginable living conditions. There is little scope for change as livelihoods have been lost with no retraining and minimal or no compensation provided. Despite widespread protests by local communities, the government and foreign companies have done little to rectify these problems, many activists campaigning against large-scale developments in Burma have been arrested and arguably positive responses are largely cosmetic.
At the embryonic stage of this development process, it is vital that the norms change away from a trend of human rights violations in the form of land grabs, forced relocation, lack of transparency and environmental destruction, to a system of sustainable development that can also benefit the local community. As a result, it is particularly important that this message of destructive impacts of current development is shared at a time when new laws and treaties are being drafted to encourage decision-makers to take local affected communities into account.
HART has released a report compiling findings from various investigations by Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and other international organisations to identify trends of human rights violations that are being committed across the country, to make way for large-scale developments.
The report includes an outline of the key issues as well as 4 case studies from the Dawei Special Economic Zone, the Monywa Project, the Thilawa Special Economic Zone and the failed Thamanthi Dam development.
From these findings and by identifying trends of abuse and blatant disregard for local populations affected by these developments, we have suggested some recommendations to enable investment and development to be conducted in a sustainable and beneficial manner preventing the current destruction of livelihoods and lifestyles from occurring in the future.
We recommend prospective investors to conduct extensive environmental and social impact assessments prior to the outset of the project with involvement from the local community; all plans and projects to be completed with transparency; and recognition of responsibility of all participants to ensure that no human rights violations are committed. This, and other recommendations, could help to ensure that future developments do not have such a detrimental impact.
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