Japan’s Construction Projects Assists Myanmar Junta
Aysu Amaha Öztürk
Japan and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Human Rights Watch recently reported that Japan’s construction projects have been a source of profit for the Myanma junta. According to HRW, the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation transferred over 1 Million US Dollars to the company owned by the junta in Myanmar, the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) (Japan’s Construction Aid Benefits Junta, 2023). HRW had already investigated the relations between the two companies in February 2022, however, there was no concrete number in place (Myanmar: Japan Construction Giant Should End Military Partnership, 2022). With this report, it has become clear that the Japanese company has been supporting the Myanmar military and the atrocities it commits against civilians by helping build its financial capacity.
The transactions that went through Japan’s Mizuho Bank from the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation to MEC seem to be for the Bago River Bridge Construction Project in Yangon (Japan’s Construction Aid Benefits Junta, 2023). In a document dated 2019, it is stated that the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation was trying to build a relationship with MEC and providing capacity building for MEC for it to become a steel fabricator. However, it is known that the money provided for military-owned or related companies directly goes to increase the capacity of the junta and the military (Japan’s Construction Aid Benefits Junta, 2023).
In relation to companies committing or assisting human rights abuses, states do not want to be held responsible, hence the lack of a binding instrument. However, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were introduced to show businesses that there are ways in which they can conduct their activities without causing harm to living beings and that it must be sought to conduct business without having adverse human rights impacts. The Japanese government should encourage the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation to abide by the Guiding Principle and not allow companies operating in its country to help commit crimes elsewhere such as Yokogawa Bridge Corporation and the Mizuho Bank. If not both Japan and the businesses such as Yokogawa Bridge Corporation will lose their legitimacy before other states communities they want to work with.
Sources and further reading:
‘Myanmar: Japan’s Construction Aid Benefits Junta.’ (2023, January 23). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/01/23/myanmar-japans-construction-aid-benefits-junta