The Power of Law and the Power of People.
This is the motto that has guided us at EarthRights for almost 20 years, ever since a duo of American law students joined forces with me, a young human rights activist from Myanmar, and took a US oil company to court for terrible human rights abuses…and won.
As a supporter and friend of EarthRights, we know you stand with us in the belief that the law can be a powerful instrument for change, and a critical weapon in the fight for social and environmental justice.
But what happens when the law – and those that wield its power – are more concerned with protecting corporate interests and profits than people? When big business has more rights than individual citizens?
Unfortunately, this year more than ever, these questions have become increasingly real for us and for the communities and partners we work with all over the world.
In Myanmar, recent reforms have won the government praise and the lifting of international sanctions after decades of oppression. Big businesses are now clamoring to invest in new factories, mines, energy projects, and industrial plantations, but they’ve shown little concern for the people who happen to be in the way.
Whole communities are being forced off their lands and left without a way to make a living. Further, there has been an alarming spate of arrests and prosecutions of activists who stand up for these communities and their land rights. Naw Ohn Hla, one such activist, was recently sentenced to two years hard labor simply for organizing a community protest against the publicly unpopular Leptadaung copper mine.
In the new Myanmar, those who dare to challenge business interests are today’s “prisoners of conscience.”
As an appeasement to western governments, Naw Ohn Hla was just released along . . .