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Japanese NGO voices concern over Thilawa evictions

Tokyo-based NGO Mekong Watch has sent an open letter to the Japanese government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) calling on them to immediately address the Burmese government on preventing the forcible eviction of residents in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which is to be largely run by Japanese companies.

Thilawa port (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
Thilawa port (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
The February 8 letter follows an eviction notice issued by local authorities dated January 31, which gave some 500 households in the area 14 days notice to vacate their homes, which are to be confiscated and allotted to the SEZ.

On February 5, Mizzima broke the story of how rice farmers in the village of Thida Myaing had been told to abandon their paddies within two weeks or else face a possible one-month prison sentence.

The Mekong Watch letter goes further and alleges that residents in nearby hamlets and villages have been instructed by the Thanlyn and Kyauktan authorities not only to abandon their rice fields but to evacuate their villages too.

“No alternative site to which such residents might relocate has been prepared, and no compensation measures for the livelihood of residents, such as farming and keeping small shops, have been considered,” said the report, quoting residents of A Lwan Sot village.

“Therefore, many residents will not be able to find any place to resettle, and will lose their livelihoods. In fact, authorities have already stopped supplying irrigation water from the reservoir nearby for some rice fields since the end of December 2012, and farmers have not been able to continue farming since then. This situation could throw them into a crisis and cause severe hardship in the short term, about which we are very much concerned,” Mekong Watch said.

The open letter drew attention to reports that JICA is scheduled to grant loans on the projects related to the Thilawa SEZ in the near future. “We request that the Japanese government and JICA consider this urgent petition letter and immediately take appropriate measures,” it concluded.

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