(Tokyo) – Japanese companies should stop participating in a commercial real estate project involving the abusive Myanmar military, Human Rights Now, Human Rights Watch, Japan International Volunteer Center, Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch said today. Proposal Complex Y in Yangon is being built on land leased to the country’s armed forces, the Tatmadaw, whose long record of abuses has worsened since the military coup of February 1, 2021.

A participating company, Tokyo Tatemono, said it had suspended the operation of the Y-Complex project since the coup. However, project participants, including Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Japanese Overseas Infrastructure Investment Company for Transportation and Urban Development (REJOIN), Fujita Corporation, and Tokyo Tatemono, did not publicly disclose the duration of the suspension or the conditions for resuming operations.

“The Japanese government and companies have not properly assessed the risk associated with doing business in Myanmar,” said Ryutaro Ogawa, deputy secretary general of Human rights now. “They should admit their own flaws and act responsibly, otherwise they risk funding the military.”

the Complex Y, which includes a shopping mall, hotel and office rental space, is under construction on “military-owned museum land” leased by the Myanmar Quartermaster General’s office, 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 buildings and accessories , developed in the field should be transferred to the “lessor”. Therefore, companies involved in Y-Complex risk creating long-term real estate assets for the military, which may continue to generate income after the agreement is terminated. On June 22, 2020, a Myanmar military spokesperson confirmed that the army owns the land and that the Ministry of Defense receives rents for the development of the Y complex.

On March 5, 2021, in response to a investigation By Mekong Watch, JBIC said the Myanmar Defense Ministry has received all payments for land rent. The JBIC also claimed that the rent payments are ultimately included in the government’s national budget, under the national budget law, but did not disclose the basis for this claim. The JBIC said it was coordinating with the business entities involved as well as the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar to confirm these details with the Myanmar government after outside “stakeholders” raised concerns; but he has not yet done so publicly.

“Even before the coup, we were expressing our concerns to the Japanese government and businesses about the dangers of money flowing into the military, but they failed to take the necessary action,” Yuka said. Kiguchi, Executive Director of Mekong watch. “We strongly condemn the fact that Japan’s public funds likely ended up in the hands of the Tatmadaw.”

Under the Myanmar Constitution of 2008, adopted during the military rule, Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense reports to the military, and the military is independent from the democratically elected government. Under article 20 (b) of the Constitution, “the defense services have the right to administer and rule independently in all matters of the armed forces”. Under Section 232 (b) (ii), the Minister of Defense is appointed by the Military Commander-in-Chief from among the military. Other laws further prevent any review or accountability of rental payments for Complex Y. For example, according to Article 39 of the Union Auditor General Act, the Ministry of Defense is exempt from auditing. , so that land lease payments to the Ministry of Defense are not subject to government control.

Abuses by the military, which have long been implicated in crimes against humanity in Rakhine State and other serious international crimes in ethnic areas of Myanmar, have intensified since the coup. the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that as of July 12, 2021, security forces have killed more than 900 people and that authorities have arrested, charged or sentenced more than 5,200. The military has also stepped up its operations in minority areas ethnicities, with indiscriminate airstrikes and ground attacks that hit schools, villages, places of worship and other civilian structures.

“Japanese companies and the government knew they were dealing with an army responsible for countless atrocities over many years, not a ministry of defense controlled by civilians,” said Teppei Kasai, program manager for Asia. to Human Rights Watch. “The Japanese government and companies should make it clear that they do not intend to resume business ventures with Tatmadaw. “

In a joint submission to the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Businesses on February 17, 2021, the five groups called for an investigation into whether Project Y-Complex is funding the military. Myanmar. At the time of the joint submission, none of the Japanese companies involved in the Y-Complex project had performed human rights due diligence, as required by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. human rights.

“It is deplorable that the companies involved in the Y complex have not clarified the status of the project in the wake of Myanmar’s coup attempt and the army’s growing campaign of terror,” Yadanar said. Maung, spokesperson for Justice for Myanmar. “There is no justification for leasing land from the Quartermaster General’s office, the very office that purchases the weapons the military uses to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Japanese government and businesses must end their complicity in the atrocities of the Burmese military.

The un Guiding principles state that “states should take additional measures to protect themselves against human rights violations committed by business enterprises owned or controlled by the state, or which receive substantial support and services from state agencies “. On May 12, 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar called companies to “respect their human rights responsibilities and put pressure on the military junta to end serious human rights violations”; while adding that companies should act in accordance with the Guiding Principles to “avoid contributing to human rights violations, or becoming complicit in crimes if they continue to operate in Myanmar”.

On October 16, 2020, the Japanese government announced a Five-year national action plan on business and human rights, declaring that it “wishes to contribute to the promotion and protection both of the human rights of those who would be affected by the activities of business enterprises and of the human rights of society as a whole, including the international community”.

“The Japanese government and companies should take human rights seriously and follow the commitments set out in the national action plan as well as their corporate policies in a responsible and proactive manner,” said Naoko Watanabe, head of the overseas program group at Japan International Volunteering Center. “If they don’t, they risk not only funding the Burmese military, but also further damaging their reputation. “

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