Japanese firms urged to quit Myanmar project

International human rights groups are urging Japanese businesses to withdraw from a commercial real estate project in Myanmar. They say the complex is being constructed on land leased from the country's military.

Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Now, and three other groups issued a joint statement at a news conference on Thursday, calling for a halt to the business entities' participation in the project. They say the commercial complex is being built on military-owned land in Yangon by the Japanese firms and a local company.

The Japanese participants include general contractor Fujita, real estate company Tokyo Tatemono, and a public-private fund, the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development, or JOIN.

The rights groups say there used to be a military museum on the land, and the lease payments for the complex can be received by the military, which has intensified its crackdown on protesters since the coup in February.

A deputy secretary general from Human Rights Now, Sato Akiko, says companies should carefully consider how such projects could affect the human rights of local residents.

A Fujita official told NHK on behalf of the Japanese companies that the lease fee is paid to the local firm that rents the land from the defense ministry, which is part of Myanmar's government. The official said they think the ultimate beneficiary is not the defense ministry, but Myanmar's government. The official added that they will continue to watch the situation closely and consult with the other stakeholders.