A group of residents living in Rangoon’s Thilawa have travelled to Tokyo to lodge a formal complaint to Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA).
JICA is leading the development of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Rangoon’s Thilawa port.
But locals living in the project area say they have repeatedly called on JICA’s Rangoon office to address concerns over the deterioration of conditions and standard of living that occurred after the Japanese agency moved in.
The villagers say JICA has ignored their requests for a meeting.
“We came to Japan because we were repeatedly denied a meeting by JICA’s Rangoon office, despite sending many letters raising issues about how local residents are affected by the Thilawa SEZ without any assistance to rehabilitate our livelihoods,” said Myint Hlaing, farmer and member of Thilawa Social Development Group, which represents local residents.
The Thilawa Social Development Group have outlined damages that villagers have incurred during the relocation of their homes and land. The damages include loss of farmland and access to farmland resulting in a loss of livelihood, impoverishment, and a shortage of educational opportunities for the villagers’ children.
Those living in the Myaing Tha Yar resettlement site have complained of substandard housing and basic infrastructure, as well as lack of access to clean water.
Fed up with the silence from JICA’s Rangoon office, three Thilawa residents, with the help of Japanese monitoring group Mekong Watch, travelled to their headquarters in Japan to hand over a formal complaint to a representative, Sachihiko Harashina, who promised to examine their case.
“JICA’s advisor and inspection officer pledged to inspect the area in accordance with their regulations and to follow up our concerns,” said Myint Hlaing.
The delegation also met with Japanese MPs and held a press conference. They plan to tour across the country to study how Japan’s government deals with these issues domestically.
“We are very satisfied with the warm welcome given by the officials here. We hope that we will prevail,” said Khine Win, a Thilawa farmer and member of the Thilawa Social Development Group.
JICA, an independent agency that oversees official development assistance for the Japanese government, has announced plans to draft a comprehensive 30-year master plan for Burma’s former capital and financial centre, Rangoon.
Japan is Burma’s tenth largest investor, having channeled more than US$300 million into the private sector by the end of 2013.