May 8, 2012
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Respected Prime Minister,
We heartily welcome your proposed landmark visit to Burma from 10-12 May 2012 which is taking place at a time when the country is going through political reforms and not long after the country witnessed the thumping victory of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy in the April 1 Parliamentary by-elections. You are also aware that these political developments are welcomed by other international communities as is evident from the series of visits made by prominent dignitaries from governments around the world including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
This much-awaited political reform will enhance Burma’s engagement with other countries like EU, US and ASEAN. Thus, at this important turn of events in its immediate strategic neighbour, India should also take an opportunity and play a significant role by strengthening its historical relations and engage with pro-democracy groups led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy and other ethnic political parties.
As this landmark visit will strengthen bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, it is pertinent for India to develop a fresh thinking in this new political scenario in Burma. Alongside its national interest, India must be sincerely committed to strengthen democracy and facilitate the process of national reconciliation in Burma.
We the Civil Society Groups and citizens of India would like to draw your kind attention before your upcoming landmark visit to Burma on the following crucial issues that urgently need your kind intervention and action.
1. The issue of ethnic nationalities remains a serious concern and must be made a priority while engaging with President Thein Sein’s government in order to secure a durable political settlement. India should also press for an end to atrocities targeting ethnic areas particularly in Kachin state, restoration of the civil and democratic rights of the Rohingya, end of atrocities in Arakan and safe repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.
2. The ongoing developmental joint ventures implemented by the two countries for which a standard Environmental Impact Assessment, implementation process such as public consultation should be conducted as envisaged in the project to ensure the desired vision is achieved. Project related documents should also be made public. That these developmental projects should not have undesired effect such as displacement of the communities in both the countries.
3. Construction of Tamanthi Hydroelectric Power Project (THPP) on the Chindwin River in northwest Burma’s Sagaing Division is another serious concern. The water current due to construction of this proposed Dam is estimated to wipe out an area of approximately 1,400 sq km. (the size of Delhi) displacing over 45,000 people living nearby. Over 2,400 villagers have already been forcibly evicted in 2007 from the Dam site, with a mere compensation of US $ 5 (Rs 500 INR).
4. The Kaladan Multi-Modal Project, developed by India in 2008 to improve connectivity between the two countries has raised several concerns in border areas of Burma and India. The project requires an estimated 196.75 hectares of forest land to be cleared. The development along the port and river will displace thousands of people from their homes and livelihood. While an environmental and Social Impact Assessments have not been conducted till date, the project implementation is already way behind its stipulated time frame of 2010. Communities specifically beneficiaries inhabiting border areas in Burma and India have no information about the proposed project.
We strongly urge the Honourable Prime Minister to take these matters into utmost importance while meeting with President Thein Sein.
We urged Hon’ble Prime Minister to ensure democratic process and people’s participation in the development process of the two countries, whereby developing strong ties and strengthening neighbourly relations.
We are confident that the visit of our Honorable Prime Minister to Burma will bring encouraging results and strengthen ties not only in trade and security but also enhance co-operation at the people-to-people level.
Indian Civil Society Groups
1. Burma Centre Delhi
2. Grassroot Development Network
3. Zo Indigenous Forum
5. Vinish Gupta
6. Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur)
7. Arun Khote
8. Peoples Media Advocacy & Resources Center- PMARC
9. Dalits Media Watch
10. Anand Bala – Bangalore
11. Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
12. Vidya Bhushan Rawat
13. Journalists’ Forum Assam, Guwahati
15. Dr. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya/Research Foundation for Science Technology & Ecology
16. Himalayan Peoples Forum
17. Uttarakhand Parivartan Party (UKPP)
18. Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette, New Delhi
19. Mahtab Alam, Civil Rights Activist and Journalist
20. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human rights lawyer and activist, Mumbai
21. Amar Kanwar
22. Anjuman Ara Begum, Guwahati
23. Pradeep Esteves, Context India, Bangalore
24. Dr. Subash Mohapatra, Journalist
25. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
26. Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum
27. Hiren Gandhi and Saroop Dhruv, DARSHAN, Ahmedabad
Burma Centre Delhi
Vikaspuri, New Delhi 110018
Tele: +91 11 45660619