Ethnic people denied a voice on Burma’s mega-development projects

A report Burma released by ethnic students and youth groups yesterday documents the lack of inclusion and consultation with local communities by Burma’s government and the developers of the country’s mega projects.

The report “Excluded: Burma’s Ethnic Nationalities on the Margins of Democracy and Development launched by the Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB) and the Nationalities Youth Forum (NY-Forum) claim ethnic people are being excluded.

The report documents that ethnic nationalities who are directly affected by the mega development projects in Burma are systematically denied their right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), and are been forced to bear the brunt of these projects – waterway pollution, deforestation, relocation and loss of income.

The report is based on a survey conducted between April and June 2012 by SYCB and NYF in Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Southern Shan State and the Tannitharyi Region. The report found that every development project surveyed had incidences of human rights abuses, including forced evictions, land confiscations and forced labor.

Naw San, the general secretary of SYCB told Karen News.

“We highlighted the impacts of these development projects on local communities, especially in ethnic areas. There have been human right violations including forced labor and land confiscation at the Myit Sone Dam and Shwe Gas projects. We did not include the Letpandaung copper mine issues in the report as yet.”

The report surveyed nine development projects, these were Myit Sone Dam in Kachin State, Economic Zone in Hpa-an Karen State, Teetain – Rid road in Chin State, Shwe Gas Pipeline and Sittwe beach in Rakhine State, Cement Factory in Kayah (Karenni) State, Ahtet Paulaung Dam in Southern Shan State, Ka Dite Dam in Mon State and the Dawei deep sea port in Tannitharyi Division.

The report claims that the negative impacts of these development projects are forced labor, land confiscation, forced eviction, increased military in the areas, travel restriction, excessive taxation and destruction to the environment.

The report is based on data collected from 261 interviews held with 10 different ethnic nationality groups. The report found that 90% of interviewees receive no information related to the development project in their areas while less than 1% said a public forum was held where the local community could attend.

On December 9th, a ceasefire agreement between the Burma government and the Chin National Front stated that the principles of the FPIC would be observed in accordance with the will of the Chin people.

Naw San, General Secretary of the SYCB said.

“The agreement is a positive start, but the FPIC now needs to be enshrined in national law and enforced throughout the country.”

The report also calls for the government, investors, developers, the Myanmar Human Rights Council, political parties and armed ethnic groups to work together to solve the problems arising from development projects.

SYCB and NYF are ethnic nationalities student and youth umbrella organizations. SYCB was formed in 1996 with 15 member organizations while NYF was formed in 2003 with 13 member organizations.

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