Statement on the Visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Thailand - June 2016

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Public Statement

21 June 2016

View of the Salween River

View of the Salween River

On the occasion of the visit to Thailand by Myanmar’s State Counsellor and prominent political leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we, Thai civil society network and communities monitoring social and environmental issues in Thailand and Myanmar would like to draw your attention to the urgent need for a review of a number of large scale infrastructure development projects jointly proposed by our two countries with investments from Thailand. In particular, the hydropower projects on the Salween River, and the Dawei Deep Seaport and Industrial Estate Development Project. While these projects have been in the pipeline for many decades, they have still not been realized. However it is expected that they will be a key topic of discussion on the agenda during this important visit to Thailand.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between Thailand and Myanmar for the Salween Dams project, which includes the exploration and development of five dams on the Salween and another dam on the Tenasserim River. To date, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has been pushing forward two projects: the 1,360 MW Hatgyi Dam in Karen State and the 7,100MW Mong Ton Dam in Shan State. Both projects have drawn fierce opposition due to their social and environmental impacts, limited information and poor planning. Major concerns include:

  1. The potential grave impacts on the human rights of local people including ethnic peoples in Shan and Karen States who have been fleeing the deadly wars toward the border area since 20 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted and displaced as a result of the widespread persecution and protracted armed conflicts, particularly those living around the proposed dam sites. Until now they have not been able to return to their homes and it is likely that they will become permanent refugees should their homeland be inundated by the dams.
  2. The project’s transboundary environmental impacts. The Salween remains one of the last international rivers that continues to run free. It is teeming with life, with pristine biodiversity and unique natural beauty found in few other rivers. The river’s remoteness and the political situation have made it almost impossible for proper studies to be carried out. Therefore insufficient information is available to aid responsible decision-making over the development of proposed hydropower projects, which threaten to destroy the pristine river.
  3. The proposed hydropower projects pose a significant risk to the ongoing peacemaking process in Myanmar. The Salween Dam Projects will likely trigger more skirmishes and armed conflicts causing concerned parties to lose faith and potentially derail the peace process.

Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) is a large-scale project covering an area of 196.5 (8 times larger than Thailand’s Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate). Research done by Dawei Development Association (DDA) which was also submitted to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, estimated that 20 to 36 villages (comprising approximately 4,384 to 7,807 households or 22,000 to 43,000 people) would be directly affected by the construction of the Dawei SEZ and related projects; including industrial estate, ports, road links, reservoirs and resettlement areas.

The investigation by NHRC also pointed out that the Dawei SEZ Project has already caused some negative impacts to locals, especially due to lack of transparency and accountability. Local people are facing difficulties with land grabbing, and loss of their livelihoods and incomes, without receiving prior information. There has been no meaningful consultation, and a deeply flawed compensation process.  Moreover, local groups have voiced their concerns several times to authorities and the company, but have so far not received any response, and their problems remain unresolved.

On May 16, 2016 the Thai cabinet made a resolution acknowledging the results of the review and policy recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) concerning community rights and the Dawei Deep Seaport and Industrial Estate Development Project. Following a complaint, filed with the NHRC, the Commission found that the project had led to the violations of human rights against people of Myanmar. And it can be assumed that the Thai government is involved and has direct stake in the implementation of the project since the governments of Myanmar and Thailand have signed an agreement and been supporting the implementation of the Dawei Special Economic Zones.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also made a summary of the review per the complaint and published policy recommendations concerning the business operations of the Thai private sector abroad and the Dawei Deep Seaport and Industrial Estate Development Project regarding its Terms of reference in the contract or any further agreements as well as the mechanisms to oversee or encourage the private sector to respect fundamental human rights and the development of further measures to bring into practice the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

We are deeply concerned about any potential signing of the contracts regarding large-scale development projects between Thailand and Myanmar since such decisions should have been made in the climate in which people are allowed to express their views freely with sufficient information and with transparency.

As one of the leaders in the Myanmar government, we urge you to suspend decisions on any projects, pending the completion of strategic and transboundary impact assessments; and allow people to make informed decisions, ensuring transparent and accountable investments, which mutually benefit both Thailand and Myanmar.

Signed by

  1. Community Resource Center
  2. Ecological Awareness Center
  3. Community Legal Center
  4. Land Watch Working Group
  6. Thai Climate Justice
  7. FTA Watch
  8. Enlaw
  9. The campaign for public policy on mineral resources: PPM
  10. People’s Mineral Network
  11. Eco-cultural Study Group
  12. Sustainable Agriculture Foundation
  13. Alternative Agriculture Network
  14. Greenpeace Southeast Asia
  15. Assembly of the Poor, Pak Mun Dam
  16. Spirit in Education Movement
  17. Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand / EARTH
  18. Center for Karen Study and Development
  19. Foundation for Sustainable Development
  20. Sueb Nakasatien Foundation