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Myanmar: At least 10 injured as police fire rubber bullets at Letpadaung copper mine protesters; over 50 farmers charged with illegal assembly

29 Mar 2017 — The Letpadaung mine in Sagaing Region, Myanmar is a copper mine operated by Wanbao Mining and the state-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings. For years, villagers have been demanding for compensation for land lost to the project, as well as for damaged crops and livelihoods. It has been the site of violent dispersions since 2012 – this includes the use of incendiary devices in November 2012 that injured dozens, and the shooting of Daw Khin Win in December 2014.

Commentary: No scope for complacency in the wake of Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

16 Mar 2017 — Myanmar Center for Responsible Business’s director Vicky Bowman said that the… Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB)...serves as test as to whether foreign conglomerates in Burma are following UN principles.  “This is looking at global behavior,” she pointed out, adding that one surprise she encountered in the survey results was how “companies like Coca Cola, Heineken and Shell have actually done a lot of human rights due diligence and [created] human rights policy.”  Yet these companies were not listed in the top three in…CHRB’s findings.  She pointed out that some foreign firms avoid releasing relevant information on human rights practices to the public, citing high market risk; Bowman pointed out that many of these companies scored very low in the CHRB survey despite regularly stating that they are committed to promoting human rights worldwide.  The Irrawaddy contacted the Heineken Co., which is affiliated with the Alliance Brewery Co.,on Wednesday afternoon…[S]enior staff declined to comment…and said that they were not aware of [CHRB’s] findings.  They re-directed questions…to the head office based in the Netherlands.  The Coca-Cola company’s communications officer did not respond to multiple phone calls.  [Also mentions BHP Bilton, Rio Tinto, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Nestlé, Adidas, YUM!, Costco, Macy's, Kohl's, Ross Stores, Grupo Mexico, India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, China Petroleum and Chemical, Coal India, Heineken and Coca-Cola]. 

El G-20 debe garantizar que las inversiones de infraestructura sean seguras & sostenibles, dice Alto Comisionado de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos

10 Mar 2017 — "Reduciendo el riesgo de la infraestructura para las personas", 5 Mar 2017 Hace poco más de un año, el 2 de marzo del 2016, nos despertó la impactante noticia del asesinato en Honduras de Berta Cáceres, ganadora del Premio Ambiental Goldman en el 2015, en respuesta a su campaña para detener la construcción de la represa hidroeléctrica de Agua Zarca…La señora Cáceres había recibido más de 30 amenazas de muerte. Los financiadores…de Agua Zarca suspendieron los préstamos. Sin embargo, las amenazas a aquellos que se oponen al desarrollo de los proyectos nunca han sido tan intensas. Además de los asesinatos, las herramientas…incluyen interferencias en asambleas pacíficas, medidas drásticas en contra de organizaciones no gubernamentales,… detenciones arbitrarias,… [L]os ministros de economía…del G-20 han estado trabajando para aumentar la inversión global en mega proyectos de infraestructura… La infraestructura…es vital para la realización de…derechos humanos…sí como para el crecimiento económico…[E]l crecimiento genera recursos…para las inversiones en las personas y el medio ambiente…En el mundo machista de la mega-infraestructura, el éxito se mide por el tamaño y la velocidad…[E]l presidente del Banco Asiático de Inversiones en Infraestructura ha descrito a las personas que se resisten al reasentamiento forzoso como “irracionales”... La posibilidad del reasentamiento siguiendo las normas internacionales en derechos humanos parece ajena a esta visión del mundo. El G20 y las instituciones de financiamiento…deben corregir este curso urgentemente. Es hora de levantar el velo de los planes de infraestructura regionales y nacionales y [de] una agenda de inversión de infraestructura sea segura y sostenible.

G20 must ensure safe & sustainable infrastructure investment agenda, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says

10 Mar 2017 — "Human rights trampled in push to build infrastructure", 3 Mar 2017 One year ago, we awoke to the shocking news of the murder in Honduras of Berta Cáceres, recipient of the 2015 Goldman environmental prize, in response to her campaign to stop the Agua Zarca...dam. Cáceres had received more than 30 death threats...Foreign backers of the...dam...suspended lending. But threats to those opposing development projects have never been higher...In addition to murder, the tools of repression include curbs on peaceful assembly, clampdowns on non-governmental organizations, attacks on independent media, draconian anti-terror laws, state-sponsored vilification,...[F]inance ministers of...G20...have been working to increase global investment in mega-infrastructure projects... vital for the realisation of many human rights...and for economic growth. Growth, in turn, generates resources which can be harnessed for investments in people and the environment. But [these]...plans are laden with un-assessed human rights risk... In the macho world of mega-infrastructure, success is measured by size and speed, breeding the denial of human rights rather than due diligence... [T]he...narrative seems to be that you need to break a few eggs to make an omelette. [T]he president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has reportedly described people resisting forced resettlement as “irrational”...The possibility of human-rights-compliant resettlement seems irrelevant to this world view. The G20 and development financing institutions must urgently correct the course. It is time to lift the veil on regional and national infrastructure plans...[and] for a safe [and] sustainable infrastructure investment agenda.

Thailand: Natl. Human Rights Commissioner examines Thai companies’ cross-border operations in Myanmar for human rights abuses

7 Mar 2017 — “NHRC looks into cross-border rights violations”, 6 Mar 2017 The delegation led by Tuenjai Deetes the National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand – along with journalists, researchers and civil society representatives – visited Dawei in late February to exchange views in a public forum and push forward the investigation of two Thailand cross-border investment firms: Myanmar Pongpipat company and Italian-Thai Development company. After the visit, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRC of Thailand) will submit a report to the Thai and Myanmar governments. During the visit, the commissioner met with the local community in Dawei and listened to the grievances of people affected by the two firms… The commissioner supported and advocated the community’s recommendations… “As the Thai Human Rights Commission, we are going to seek cooperation with the Myanmar Human Rights Commission [MHRC] in terms of what they can do for the Heinda case,” the commissioner explained.

Myanmar: Workers at Chinese-owned factory producing for H&M destroy production line, after sacking of union leader

8 Mar 2017 — "H&M supply factory in Myanmar damaged in violent labour protest", 7 Mar 2017 Workers demanding better conditions and benefits have destroyed the production line of a Chinese-owned factory in Myanmar making clothes for…[H&M]…The month-old dispute, which also saw managers attacked, highlights the need for Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to enact social and labour reforms, analysts say…Production at Hangzhou Hundred-Tex Garment (Myanmar) Company, which was one of H&M’s 40 suppliers in Myanmar, has been halted since 9 February, workers and managers in the Chinese company said. “H&M group is deeply concerned about the recent conflict and our business relationship with this factory is on hold at the moment,” the Swedish-based company said in a statement…We are monitoring the situation closely and are in close dialogue with concerned parties. We strongly distance ourselves from all kind of violence.” …The dispute started with a strike in late January following the sacking of a local labour union leader, according to workers and managers. Workers demanded a better performance review system and healthcare coverage…[the] former union leader That Paing Oo…had led a labour protest late last year that successfully pushed Hangzhou Hundred-Tex Garment to compensate employees who did not receive overtime pay, several workers said…

Myanmar should halt development of special economic zones until intl. human rights laws & standards are met, says Intl. Commission of Jurists in new report

28 Feb 2017 — “Myanmar: amend Special Economic Zones Law to protect human rights – new ICJ report”, 27 Feb 2017 The Government of Myanmar should impose a moratorium on the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) until it can ensure SEZs can be developed in line with international human rights laws and standards, said the ICJ at a report launch held today in Yangon. The 88-page report, entitled Special Economic Zones in Myanmar and the State Duty to Protect Human rights, assesses the laws governing Myanmar’s SEZs and finds that the legal framework is not consistent with the State’s duty to protect human rights. For example, a case study examining the Kyauk Phyu SEZ in Rakhine State shows that the land acquisition process initiated in early 2016 lacks transparency, does not comply with national laws on land acquisition, and risks violating the rights of 20,000 residents facing displacement…

"Trade union building in Myanmar" -essay examines the role of unions in dispute resolution and law reform, and identifies barriers to organizing

20 Feb 2017 — 17 Feb 2017 …Trade unions play a crucial role in helping workers formulate and articulate their complaints. Claiming rights is an important driver for democratic change in a political environment characterized by the brutal repression of trade unions and labour rights under the military regime for over 50 years. Unions are important vehicles that combine legal institution-building and democratization through worker participation. This is important in a context where the labour law, a key pillar in Myanmar’s transition to democracy, is not coherent and the same concepts and words have different meanings to different actors… Law and trade union-building are tightly intertwined in Myanmar: labour disputes have become a key driver for trade union organizing. This takes three forms: solving disputes through workplace negotiations; supporting dispute settlements through arbitration; and more fundamentally the involvement of labour in the labour law reform process. Overall however, while trade unions are important for turning law into a social reality, considerable barriers remain, allowing employers to disregard decisions made by the arbitration council and other legal innovations…

Myanmar : Un rapport souligne les mauvaises conditions de travail dans les usines textiles

14 Feb 2017

Myanmar: Report finds that garment industry initiatives have not delivered needed positive impact on labour; highlights abuses such as low wages, unpaid overtime, child labour

13 Feb 2017 — This report by SOMO, Action Labor Rights, and Labor Rights Defenders & Promoters asks whether, and how, western garment brands can operate fairly in the fledgling democracy of Myanmar. The report analyses Myanmar's economic and trade policies, international labour standards, and local labour laws. It highlights labour issues such as low wages and child labour based on interviews with over 400 workers. It also features responses from some brands, and recommendations on constructive ways forward.