Human rights groups call to stop Myanmar real estate project on military-owned land

A number of human rights groups have pleaded to Japanese businesses and property developers to terminate a proposed real estate development in Myanmar.

The proposed development is the Y-Complex, worth approximately $330 million and covering 92,000 square feet of land leased from the country’s military. It aims to build shopping malls, office buildings and a hotel from Japanese luxury hotel chain Okura.

The human rights groups involved are Human Rights Now, Human Rights Watch, Japan International Volunteer Center, Justice For Myanmar and Mekong Watch. The groups argue the lease between the Japanese conglomerates and the Myanmar military junta requires all payments for land to be paid to the Myanmar military junta. Furthermore, the build, operate and transfer lease essentially makes the Myanmar military junta the perpetual owner of the complex. The groups argue that these actions fund the Myanmar military’s invasive and political operations involved in the Myanmar coup.

Concern arises from financial transactions between the Japanese companies being shielded from scrutiny by Myanmar laws. Under section 39 of the Union Auditor General Law, the military junta is exempt from any audits, so the land lease payments cannot be scrutinized. In addition, under article 20(b) of the Myanmar Constitution, Defense Services can independently administer and adjudicate all affairs of the armed forces, separate from the elected government.

The companies involved in the development include the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transfer and Tourism, the Fujita Corporation and Tokyo Tatemono Asia. Only Tokyo Tatemono has suspended commercial activities and will await future circumstances before making major decisions.