Communities Unaware of Development Projects in Ethnic Areas
14 December 2012: Ethnic nationalities in Burma are not informed of development projects being implemented in their areas, a new report released on Wednesday said.
The report by the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB) and Nationalities Youth Forum (NY-Forum) said ethnic nationalities directly affected by development projects are systematically denied their right to free, prior, and informed consent.
And the local ethnic people are forced to bear the brunt of the projects, according to the report entitled Excluded: Burma’s Ethnic Nationalities on the Margins of Democracy and Development.
Nearly 90 percent of individuals surveyed did not receive any information about the development project in their areas before it began, the report added.
Moe Hlaing, Central Committee member of NY-Forum, said: “Our evidence shows that every development project surveyed had some incidences of human rights abuses, including forced evictions, land confiscations, and forced labor.”
Almost half of the interviewees felt unsafe while only less than 2% thought they would not be punished if they seek further information about the project.
In Chin State in May this year, at least four community leaders were interrogated and threatened with severe punishment for false accusations of passing information to media agencies about the ongoing Lemro dam construction in Paletwa, a joint venture between China and Burma.
The local villagers along the Lemro river were not informed of any possible impacts from the project, according to sources from Paletwa Township.
When asked about the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project in Chin State, Isaac Khen, Director of GDI (Gender and Development Initiative), an NGO that conducted surveys on the India-Burma development venture, expressed deep concerns over lack of transparency and inadequate consultation with local communities.
Naw San, General Secretary of the SYCB, said: “No project should be initiated until local communities have been consulted in a manner that is consistent with international standards of free, prior, and informed consent. This is a key for sustainable development in Burma.”
Despite its ratification of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which set out clear provisions for free, prior, and informed consent, Burma still has no national law that enshrines the right of individuals to participate in decisions that affect them, the report said.
The report said Chin villagers were forced not only to contribute human labour but also to pay for parts of the road construction project, funded by India, in Tedim Township of Chin State bordering Mizoram State.
The government of Burma is called for bringing to a halt development projects in conflict zones and in ethnic states where fragile ceasefire negotiations are taking place until meaningful participation rights are fully respected.
Based on 261 interviews conducted in 7 states and 1 division with 10 ethnic groups and 9 development projects, the report reveals a trend of intimidation by project authorities and an impression on the part of affected communities that development projects will not positively impact their lives.
Van Biak Thang