(Tokyo) – Japanese business entities must terminate their participation in a commercial real estate project involving Myanmar humiliating military action, Human Rights Now, Human Rights Watch, Japan International Volunteer Center, Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch said today. The proposed Y-complex in Yangon is being built on land leased from the country’s military, the Tatmadaw, whose long-standing list of abuses worsened following the February 1, 2021 military coup.
One participating company, Tokyo Tatemono, stated that they have suspended exploitation of the Y-Complex project after the coup. However, the project participants, including those from the budget. Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Japan Corporation for Investment in Overseas Transport and Urban Development Infrastructure (JOIN), Fujita Corporation, as well as Tokyo Tatemonodid not publicly disclose the duration of the suspension or the conditions for the resumption of work.
“The Japanese government and business have failed to properly assess the risk associated with doing business in Myanmar,” said Ryutaro Ogawa, deputy secretary general at Human rights now… “They have to admit their shortcomings and act responsibly, otherwise they risk funding the army.”
IN Y-complex, which includes a shopping center, hotel and rented office space, is being built on “War Museum Land” leased by the Office of the Quartermaster General of Myanmar, according to a copy of the “Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) Land Lease” Agreement dated October 15, 2013. The agreement states that upon termination or expiration of the BOT agreement, the land, including the buildings and fixtures built on it, must be transferred to the “landlord”. Thus, the companies participating in Y-Complex risk creating immobile long-term assets for the military that can continue to generate income after the agreement is terminated. June 22, 2020 military representative of Myanmar confirmed that the land is owned by the military, and the Department of Defense receives rent for the Y-Complex development.
March 5, 2021 in response to investigation by Mekong Watch, JBIC reported that Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense has received all payments for the land lease. The JBIC also argued that rent payments are ultimately included in the state budget under the National Budget Law, but did not disclose the basis for this requirement. JBIC said it is coordinating with interested commercial entities as well as the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar to confirm such details to the Myanmar government after external “stakeholders” raised concerns; but this has not yet been done publicly.
“Even before the coup, we expressed concern to the Japanese government and businesses about the dangers of money flowing into the military, but they did not take the necessary action,” said Yuka Kiguchi, executive director Watch the Mekong… “We strongly condemn the fact that Japanese government funds probably ended up in the hands of the Tatmadau.”
Under the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar, adopted during military rule, the Ministry of Defense of Myanmar is subordinate to the military and the military is independent of a democratically elected government. According to article 20 (b) of the Constitution, “The Defense Service has the right to independently manage and decide all affairs of the armed forces”. Under section 232 (b) (ii), the Minister of Defense is appointed by the Commander-in-Chief from among the military. Other laws also preclude any scrutiny or accountability of Y-Complex rent payments. For example, under section 39 of the Union Auditor General Act, the Department of Defense is exempted from auditing, so land lease payments to the Department of Defense are not subject to government control.
Since the coup, there has been an increase in abuse by the military, who have long been implicated in crimes against humanity in Rakhine State and other serious international crimes in ethnic areas across Myanmar. IN Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that as of July 12, 2021, security forces have killed more than 900 people and authorities have arrested, charged or sentenced more than 5,200 people. The military has also stepped up operations in ethnic minority areas, with indiscriminate airstrikes and ground attacks on schools, villages, places of worship and other civilian structures.
“Japanese companies and the government knew they were dealing with the military responsible for countless atrocities over the years, not a civilian-controlled Ministry of Defense,” he said. Teppei Kasai, Asian Programs Specialist, Human Rights Watch. “The Japanese government and companies must make it clear that they do not intend to resume commercial projects with the Tatmadau.”
IN joint presentation On February 17, 2021, five groups asked the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises to investigate whether the Y-Complex project is funding the Myanmar Armed Forces. At the time of the joint application, none of the Japanese businesses participating in the Y-Complex project had conducted an effective due diligence on human rights compliance as required by the UN Business Guidelines for Human Rights.
“It is unfortunate that the companies involved in Y-Complex did not clarify the status of the project following the attempted coup in Myanmar and the expansion of the military campaign of terror,” said Yadanar Maung, a spokesman for the company. Justice for Myanmar… “There is no reason to lease land from the Office of the Quartermaster General, the very office that purchases weapons that the military uses to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Japanese government and business must end their complicity in the atrocities of the Myanmar military. “
UN Guidelines state that “states should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by businesses owned or controlled by the state or that receive substantial support and services from government agencies.” 12 May 2021 UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar called in businesses to “fulfill their human rights responsibilities and pressure the military junta to stop gross violations of human rights”; while adding that companies must act in accordance with the Guiding Principles to “not contribute to human rights abuses or complicit in crime if they continue to operate in Myanmar”.
On October 16, 2020, the Japanese government announced five-year National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights, stating that he “wishes to contribute to the promotion and protection of both the human rights of people who would be adversely affected by the activities of businesses and the human rights of society as a whole, including the international community”.
“The Japanese government and business must take human rights seriously and follow the commitments outlined in the National Action Plan and their corporate policies in a responsible and proactive manner,” said Naoko Watanabe, the company’s overseas program group manager. Japan International Volunteer Center… “If they do not, they will not only risk funding Myanmar’s military, but they will further damage their reputation.”