A report by The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN)
Critique of Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Blueprint for Development in South-Eastern Burma/Myanmar
This report highlights how Japan’s new development plans for Southeast Burma could fuel conflict rather than promote peace.
KPSN, the largest network of ethnic Karen organizations in Burma, is calling for a moratorium on large-scale development projects until there is peace and political stability in the country. KPSN is also calling on Japan’s development arm, JICA, to engage with civil society organizations at all levels of project planning, design, and implementation in order to avoid the risk of conflict.
JICA has recently issued a blueprint titled Preparatory Survey for the Integrated Regional Development for Ethnic Minorities in the South-East Myanmar. This blueprint proposes industrial development in Karen and Mon States, focusing on upgrading and expanding road networks, establishing industrial estates, creating urban infrastructure, and promoting industrial agriculture such as rubber plantations. This project is purportedly to aid in the return and settlement of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Karen and Mon States. However, KPSN warns JICA that its blueprint is premature and flawed, potentially exacerbating conflict in the region. By working primarily with the central government and its appointed state governments in planning major development projects, JICA’s approach legitimizes and reinforces existing centralized government structures while ignoring the voices of local people, including the refugees it supposedly aims to help.
“JICA is ignoring the people it is claiming it wants to help and could end up actually hurting them rather than helping them,” said Saw Paul Sein Twa, one of the coordinators of the Karen Peace Support Network. “We are concerned that JICA’s blueprint neither sufficiently recognizes the uncertain political context nor proposes people-centred development alternatives. We hope that JICA will talk to us about our people’s concerns for the sustainable development of our country.”