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Burma’s New Investment Law Fuels Human Rights Concerns

Burma’s new investment law fails to protect human rights or prevent environmental damage, New York based Human Rights Watch has warned.

Jessica Evans, international financial institutions expert at HRW said the law , “will be a legal cornerstone of Burma’s efforts to reengage with the global economy and international investors,” but expressed concern that “the government’s public consultations have been deeply inadequate.

“If not carefully crafted, the law could make it difficult for the government to pass regulations to protect human rights and prevent environmental harm,” Ms Evans added, in a statement to the press.

The government did allow the new investment law to be open to public scrutiny until March 26, but HRW said that more time should have been given to ensure human and environmental rights were protected and that communities that could have been affected had not been properly consulted with.

“During the minimal consultation that did take place with independent groups, local community members raised concerns about the government’s regulation of major international investments. They noted that local people often have no means for redress when an investment goes wrong,” HRW explained.

The investment law seeks to consolidate two laws already in place: the Foreign Investment Law and the Myanmar Citizens Investment Law. The country’s Directorate for Investment and Company Administration has drafted the new law with assistance from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

Ms Evans said international organisations had to make sure that Burma’s laws enshrined human rights and environmental
safeguards.

“The World Bank, IFC, and other donors and investors should press the Burmese government for much more extensive consultations on the Investment Law,” she said, “It’s more important for Burma to get this right than to do it quickly.”

World Bank estimates state that Burma’s economy has grown by more than 6.8 per cent in the 2013-2014 financial year while foreign direct investment grew from US$1.9 billion in 2011 to US$2.7 billion by 2013. “The drivers were strong growth in gas production, services, construction, as well as foreign direct investment and exports of commodities,” the World Bank report noted.

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