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Myanmar: Fishermen protest against access restrictions at Kyaukphyu seaport; fishing not allowed where China National Petroleum Corporation's ships dock

24 May 2017 — "Fishermen Protest Against Kyaukphyu Seaport," 22 May 2017 Fishermen aboard 120 boats protested along the Thanzit River against the Maday Island deep seaport in Arakan State..., as authorities have banned them from fishing in a stretch of water now reserved for international cargo ships docking at the port. ...Nine fishermen...were granted a permit to demonstrate, under the restrictions of keeping distance from parts of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)-owned seaport, including the jetty and crude oil storage area...   Chinese-owned oil tankers began docking at the seaport in early May to transport the oil through Maday terminal to the China-Burma border. Local fishermen have been restricted from catching fish near the mouth of the river where the ships dofick. U Tun Kyi, coordinator of the Kyaukpyu Rural Development Association (KRDA), said protesters demanded CNPC, owned by the Chinese government, and Burma’s state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) address the needs of local fisherman. In addition to a maximum of three ships docking at the port every week, locals want the firms to build a new jetty, phone tower, embankments, and a ring road for the island. They also demanded the firms provide electricity to three villages, plus financial and technical assistance for agricultural and livestock businesses. According to the Global New Light of Myanmar, China will annually transport more than 22 million metric tons of crude oil via the seaport’s terminal to the Chinese border town of Ruili. Burma would receive US$6.905 million dollars per year and $31.56 for every ton sent through the pipeline.

Myanmar: Documentary & photo story show link between jade and continued armed conflict in Kachin State

16 May 2017

80 Myanmar and Thai NGOs support 'Nation' reporter sued by Thai mining firm in Myanmar; concern over chilling effect for media and human rights defenders raised

16 May 2017 — "Myanmar and Thai NGOs support 'Nation' reporter hit by suit for 'defaming' mining firm", 15 May 2017 Eighty Thai and Myanmar NGOs have voiced their support for The Nation journalist Pratch Rujivanarom, who has been sued by a Thai mining company over a report about the environmental impacts of a tin mine affecting local people in Myanmar. The group of 80 human rights and environmental protection organisations led by Reporters without Borders issued a joint statement yesterday urging the Thai government to protect press freedom, decriminalise defamation, and align the 2007 Computer Crime Act with international laws and standards. The groups also demanded that Myanmar Phongpipat Co Ltd, the Thai mining company operating in Myanmar, withdraw all criminal proceedings against Pratch and The Nation newspaper immediately. The company claimed that an article written by Pratch...regarding the impact of the company’s tin mine on villagers in Myaung Pyo village in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region damaged its reputation. ...The mining company said the allegation that the mine had contaminated the river and water supply of Myaung Pyo village was false and the mine had never discharged heavy metals into the environment.  The water from the mine contained safe levels of manganese, arsenic and lead, which would not harm people’s heath according to international standards, the mining company claimed. The groups...insisted that the lawsuit created a chilling effect for the media and human rights defenders, and conflicted with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party.

Commentary: Responsible investment requires more than a few CSR programs: Lessons for Chinese Outbound Investors

16 May 2017 — "Responsible Investment Requires More than a Few Corporate Social Responsibility Programs: Lessons for Chinese Outbound Investors", 4 May 2017 …Chinese investors…must understand that the meaning of responsible investment is much more than a few corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.…For the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines project, CNPC…has spent lavishly on CSR programs, which includes building schools and clinics in communities and bringing electricity to the community…but due to a lack of doctors, nurses, and medicine, the benefits to local communities are very limited…[T]he project [itself] has had tremendous negative environmental and social costs on the local communities along the pipeline route… More than 100 villages have been affected. [T]he most significant issue generally, concerns land…Myanmar China Pipeline Watch Committee and other local civil society organizations (CSOs) along the pipeline have tried to meet with the representatives of CNPC based in Mandalay many times, but had been rejected for different reasons. Recently, there have been regular meetings due to the election of NLD. Difficulties in engagement and communication are common problems with Chinese investors.  ...Andes Petroleum Ecuador Ltd. [joint-venture of CNPC & SINOPEC]…operates in [Ecuador] Andes Petroleum signed an exploration and development contract for two more oil blocks…[which] overlap with the territory of the Sápara indigenous people...The indigenous people in this region are strongly opposed to any plans for oil development and vow to resist and stop these projects…According to the CNPC, it commits to “obeying the laws and regulations of the countries where we operate and fully respecting local customs…”…[but the company’s] site lacks information about each project the company operates, the corporate structure and board members, or even general updates. …As these two projects in Myanmar and Ecuador demonstrate, for Chinese investors, CSR translates to building schools and clinics and giving donations. But this is insufficient. Both projects discussed in this post have conducted CSR programs but have largely ignored more pressing issues, such as land compensation, safety concerns, environmental issues, indigenous rights, transparency, and climate change.  …We strongly suggest that CNPC…adopt and operationalize policies and grievance mechanisms that meet the UN Guiding Principles. This would be a powerful indicator that CNPC takes seriously its role as a responsible international investor, and would go much further than its limited CSR programs have.

Myanmar: MCRB releases brief on children's rights and businesses

15 May 2017 — "Brief Urges Businesses to Protect Children's Right", 13 May 2017 ...Myanmar Center for Responsible Business (MRCB) urged local and foreign businesses to do more to protect children’s rights...  The paper, titled Children’s Rights and Business in Myanmar, outlines 10 business principles designed by UNICEF, UN Global Compact, and Save the Children in 2012 in the context of doing business in Burma. The brief encourages businesses to ensure they do not use child labor and that young workers are employed in line with international standards.  Larger businesses have a duty to ensure subcontractors and suppliers are also respecting children’s rights...  MRCB director Vicky Bowman acknowledged the legislature must do their part to improve the situation and noted that Parliament is currently drafting a Child Law and a Health and Safety Law is under consideration... 

Myanmar: Study warns that pollution-linked premature deaths could rise to 7,000/year if 8 more coal plants are built

14 May 2017 — "Myanmar coal plant growth could kill 280,000: Study", 04 May 2017 A new study by Harvard University and Greenpeace warned that the government's plans to expand its current network of two coal-fired plants to 10 could have a major human toll. Six of its cities already have higher counts of dangerous microscopic particles known as PM10 than China's famously smog-filled capital Beijing, according to 2016 data from the World Health Organization. "These plans do not take into account the human health costs when making choices about the country's energy future," Lauri Millyvirta, from Greenpeace, said. The extra pollution would like cause more than 7,000 premature deaths a year, totalling 280,000 over the 40-year operating life of the eight new planned plants and the two operating ones, it predicted. Half would be in Myanmar and the rest in neighbouring countries, mainly Thailand and China but also other parts of Southeast Asia...        

Myanmar: Villagers boycott consultations on Tigyit coal-fired power plant; last minute & selective invitations questioned

4 May 2017 — "Public skips meeting on Tigyit coal-fired power plant", 3 May 2017 Slamming the government for a lack of transparency, local residents boycotted an April 29 meeting to discuss the Tigyit coal-fired power plant. The southern Shan State locals said only a small number of people were invited to take part in the last minute, closed-door meeting. “The invitation was sent on the 27th. Thirty-nine villages will be affected by the Tigyit project but only 70 people were invited,” Ko Sein Thaung, a local resident, told the Shan Herald...  The controversial power plant was suspended during President U Thein Sein’s administration amid a public backlash. Many fear the new government is trying to restart the project after a test run was carried...  ...The facility was suspended in 2014 amid local complaints over air pollution. Local residents say they developed skin and breathing problems after the coal-fired plant began production. Environmental experts have cautioned that the project could have detrimental affects on the nearby Inle Lake watershed. Residents have called on the government and the company operating Tigyit to publicly release the contract details, as well as the environmental impact assessment.

Myanmar: Report reviews labour dispute resolution mechanism; recommends ways to strengthen the system

8 May 2017 — "How Myanmar is Building a Labor Dispute Resolution System", 07 May 2017 As Myanmar works to find its niche in global supply chains, helping workers and employers resolve their differences through conciliation and arbitration will be an important component of effective industrial relations. With support from the C&A Foundation, BSR’s new report, “Labor Disputes in Myanmar: From the Workplace to the Arbitration Council,” looks at how Myanmar’s dispute resolution process is working five years after its adoption.  Below are the four steps Myanmar is following to build a labor dispute resolution process: Step 1: Look for examples Myanmar’s dispute resolution process is grounded in its 2012 Settlement of Labor Disputes Law, with a national-level Arbitration Council modeled in part after the one set up in Cambodia...  Step 2: Create Opportunities for Resolution If disputes arise, the resolution process begins with employer and worker representatives discussing and negotiating issues in the workplace coordinating committee (WCC). If unsuccessful, the dispute goes to a township conciliation body (TCB), where a tripartite panel of government, employer, and worker representatives attempts to help conciliate an agreement. If that is unsuccessful, they go on to a state or regional arbitration body (AB) for a hearing by a tripartite body. If either side is unsatisfied, the case can be brought to the national arbitration council (AC). Step 3: Build in Transparency Decisions at the AB and AC level are published online, creating an opportunity for labor organizations and other stakeholders to understand how the process works and what outcomes will likely occur, which can inform their own research and training.  Step 4: Learn and Evolve ...There have been additional revisions and consultations with labor organizations, and employers need to understand how the labor dispute law can be improved. Many challenges remain, including the need for clear legal boundaries and scope, consistent and professional decision-making, fair selection of arbiters, effective enforcement, and more transparency efforts. 

Renewable energy investors face financial risks if they do not address human rights issues, finds new report

3 May 2017 — "Renewable energy faces growing human rights concerns," 3 May, 2017 [A new] study, by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre…documents how renewables firms, particularly in developing countries, are failing to meet international standards for engaging with the local communities where mainly wind and hydropower projects are being implemented. The report highlights cases of illegal land-grabbing, intimidation and violence, while the large majority of those featured in the research admitted to failing to meet basic rules of engagement around free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)...The report suggested that renewables projects are running into similar problems faced by the extractive industry because both involve the large scale use of land...These include operational delays, legal costs and reputational risks, which are likely to mean lower financial returns for investors, as well as increased operational and capital expenditure, the report noted...

World Bank Group's financial intermediaries linked to various human rights abuses in Southeast Asia; companies & the IFC respond

1 May 2017 —   Inclusive Development International, in collaboration with Bank Information Center, Tarkapaw Youth Group, Urgewald, 11.11.11, Accountability Counsel, and Ulu Foundation allege in this report that various banks and investment groups have invested millions of dollars to operate or fund local companies in Southeast Asia that are linked to human rights abuses including land grabbing and forced evictions. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies named in this report to respond – the responses are linked below. The following sent responses: International Finance Corporation, Dragon Capital, Indonesia Infrastructure Finance, and Raiffeisen Bank International.