Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in cooperation with Japanese NGO Mekong Watch and local organization, Thilawa Social Development Group (TSDG), recently released a report titled “A Foreseeable Disaster in Burma: Forced Displacement in the Thilawa Economic Zone”. The report accuses the Myanmar authorities of violating international standards relating to relocation and resettlement, highlighting the negative impacts on communities forcibly evicted as a result of the first phase of the Thilawa SEZ project, which is being developed with the Japanese government.
PHR’s research includes testimonials from approximately half of the 68 households relocated as a result of the first phase of the SEZ project. PHR found that households were not consulted about the project, they received inadequate compensation and the resettlement process fell short of international standards.
“Instead of providing affected families with an opportunity to challenge the displacement or offered compensation, as outlined in international standards, the government issued threats to Thilawa residents,” the report said.
PHR researchers found that the relocation site does not meet the minimum standards for a refugee camp, let alone a planned community. Both the water sources and latrines were improperly constructed and water samples tested from the relocation site were found to be unfit for human consumption.
The authorities also failed to provide adequate compensation or means for alternative livelihoods, which have resulted in additional adverse consequences for health conditions and food security. Displaced families report higher levels of hunger, child malnutrition, and sickness. The report finds, “Without intervention to improve livelihoods, the nutrition and health situation in the relocation site will continue to deteriorate.”
The report calls for transparent procedures for evictions, improved humanitarian conditions at the relocation site, and for international standards to be followed in future relocations connected to the Thilawa project.
If international standards are followed displacement . . .