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27 October – 3 November: New National Land Use Policy Must Reflect the Concerns of those Affected

November 4, 2014

31 Oct 2014 Photo By IrrawaddyThe Burma Government released its draft land use policy document and opened it up for consultations with the public. Despite this positive sign, the time for consultations is inadequate with no proper mechanism or space created for the meaningful participation of affected communities in order for their concerns to be reflected in the draft. The draft document itself has been heavily criticized for serving to further empower investors over small scale farmers.

Since the beginning of the reform process in 2011, land grabbing, a practice that the previous military regime engaged in regularly, has hit new heights as a flurry of investors seek opportunities in previously untapped markets and the Burma Government liberalizes the economy. A prime example of this is the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Project, a joint Thailand–Burma Government initiative that is seeking private investment to create one of the largest industrial zones in Asia. A report released by Dawei Development Association on 21 October 2014 highlights how 20-36 villages will be negatively affected. Concerns iterated by the local communities show that they have “lost farmlands and natural resources that are vital to their livelihoods, without prior information.” Furthermore “there was no meaningful consultation, and a deeply flawed compensation process.”

Land grabbing is often done with protection from the military, or by the military itself, for factories, infrastructure projects, mono-crop plantations, or military bases, and as with the Dawei SEZ case, usually without adequate or indeed, any compensation. It is a nationwide problem, both in ethnic areas, as documented by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland and Karen Human Rights Group, while in central Burma and delta areas, land grabbing is common place. Given that around 70% of the population of Burma is engaged in agriculture, and it is agricultural lands that are most often confiscated, it is one of the most pressing issues for Burma today.

Not only is land grabbing occurring on a systematic basis, but the current legal framework is woefully inadequate in protecting local communities. Article 37 of the 2008 Constitution states that “the Union is the ultimate owner of all lands and all natural resources above and below the ground, above and beneath the water and in the atmosphere in the Union.” Thus, the 2008 Constitution gives the government carte blanche to take any land it so wishes. Two laws enacted in 2012 benefit large-scale industrial farming/agribusiness at the expense of smallholder farmers. The Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Land Law allows lands that have been deemed vacant, fallow or virgin to be allocated by a government body to the government, investors or individuals. A major flaw in the law is the lack of recognition of traditional or customary use of land, such as rotational agriculture, as productive use. The Farmland Law introduces Land Use Certificates (LUCs), which provide more land security than in the past, but still falls extremely short of providing any sort of reasonable land tenure. The process to obtain these LUCs is unclear.

Thus the need for a comprehensive land use policy is clear. Yet the process and content of the draft policy has many flaws. The consultation period is just three weeks, which for a 90 page document filled with technical language, is insufficient. In an analysis of the draft policy, the think-tank, Transnational Institute, highlights how it is investors, not farmers, that stand to benefit if this policy is rolled out, stating that it will “create a legal environment that is greatly beneficial for a small group of large national and international companies, but which has the potential to be hugely disadvantageous for millions of small-scale farmers.”

Thus we call on the Burma Government to allow sufficient time for meaningful and participatory consultations with relevant stakeholders, primarily the farmers who will be most affected by the land use policy as well as land rights activists, environmental groups and civil society organizations. Not only must these consultations be inclusive, meaningful, and participatory, but the perspectives and input from these communities must be incorporated into the new draft. This is one of the most vital policy areas for Burma and its reform agenda, and it is an opportunity for the Burma Government to create an enabling environment for the people to have ownership over the development agenda for themselves and their communities that is sustainable for decades to come. This opportunity must not be wasted.

News Highlights  

The U.S. Department of Treasury blacklists Aung Thaung, a lower house member of Burma’s parliament and a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, for his active attempt to undermine recent economic and political reforms in Burma as well as being implicated in previous attacks on Burma’s pro-democratic opposition in the country

First ever high level roundtable meeting with representatives from Government, political parties and military yields little at the meeting, which was hastily organized by the Government ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Burma

Inside Burma    

National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will make her first visit to Karenni State next week to hold a rally calling for reforms to the Constitution

President Thein Sein prepares to disband the Committee for Scrutinizing the Remaining Political Prisoners stating that all political prisoners have been released, while rights activists and some members of the committee strongly disagree

On the 26th anniversary of the party’s formation, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy urge Burma Government and armed ethnic groups to start political dialogue as soon as possible in order to end armed conflict in Burma

Htin Kyaw who has been sentenced to over 11 years in jail is being sentenced to additional two years sentence for colluding with Movement for Democracy Current Force for distributing materials at a demonstration, though he was in jail at the time of the demonstration and further arrest of democratic activists organizing protesters against the killing of a journalist Aung Kyaw Naing aka Ko Par Gyi undermine freedom of expression

A leaked document of the draft Rakhine State Action Plan reveals policies that may push aid groups to support policies and actions that are at odds with core humanitarian principles or standards and deny people’s basic human rights, raising concerns among aid groups

Chin State regional authorities crack down on two more ethnic language newspapers, making these publications the fourth publication to be shut down by authorities in Chin State

In Hpa-an, Karen State, ten farmers who led a rally to call for the return of land that were seized by the military Government in 1986 are charged for organizing a protest without permission

US and UK embassies call on the Burma Government to launch a transparent investigation into the killing of Par Gyi, the journalist killed by the Burma Army during interrogation in Karen State and The President’s Office has ordered the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to carry out a special investigation into the killing, though the Myanmar NHRC has been criticized for its inability to carry out independent investigation due to its strong connection to the Government


Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, suspects of Koh Tao murder case in Thailand, tell delegates from Burma Embassy in Thailand that Thai police had given them directions as to what to say and do during the re-enactment of the crime on 3 October 2014


The United Nations is set to vote on a new draft resolution urging Burma government to abandon its plans to force Rohingya Muslims to identify as “Bengali” – a term used to brand the minority musilims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will visit China, Burma and Australia next week to attend a series of regional summits


Death of an Activist-Reporter
By Aung Zaw
The Irrawaddy

What Obama Can Do on His Second Myanmar Visit
By Aung Tun
The Diplomat

Drug fight chance lost
Bangkok Post

Latest from the Blog

Justice for the Killing of Journalist by Burma Army Must be Found
By Burma Partnership


TAKE ACTION! Sign a petition urging US President Obama to say “Rohingya” during the upcoming East Asia Summit with regional leaders in Burma

TAKE ACTION! Write to Burma authorities, urging them to order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the murder of Mr. Aung Kyaw Naing in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the sanctions provided by the law, as well as providing adequate reparation to the relatives of Mr. Aung Kyaw Naing

TAKE ACTION! Write to David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, asking him to visit Burma to investigate the arrests of journalists, and pressure the Burma Government to release the journalists of Bi Mon Te Nay Journal

In Mandalay, thousands of Buddhist monks, nuns and laypeople rally calling for the government to take action on a set of highly controversial and currently stagnant interfaith marriage bills, which have been criticized by rights groups both in and outside Burma

In Sagaing Region, more than 100 people stage an official protest organized by National League for Democracy, holding placards calling for the further crack down on drugs, an end to drug-related bribery and corruption, rule of law, and legal assistance for rehabilitating addicts

Approximately 100 journalists in Burma gather in solidarity in front of Rangoon City Hall to mark the UN International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, wearing black wrist bands to protest ongoing repression of media freedom and continuing arrest of reporters in Burma

Three hundred people gather in central Rangoon to denounce the extrajudicial killing of Aung Kyaw Naing aka. Par Gyi who was shot while in military custody in Mon State earlier this month

Statements and Press Releases

Burmese Government Urged to Investigate the Enforced Disappearance of Sumlut Roi Ja
By 124 Civil Society Organizations

Myanmar: Ensure Independent and Impartial Investigation into Death of Journalist
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: UNGA Resolution Must Address Backtracking on Human Rights
By Amnesty International

AAPP’s Statement Regarding the Death of Freelance Journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, aka Par Gyi
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

ကိုေအာင္ေက်ာ္ႏိုင္ (ခ) ကိုပါႀကီးအား အစေဖ်ာက္ သုတ္သင္ျခင္း၊ ဥပေဒမဲ့ သတ္ျဖတ္ျခင္းအား ကန္႔ကြက္႐ႈံ႕ခ်ျခင္း
By Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters

Bi Mon Te Nay Journalists Must Be Freed!
By Burma Campaign UK

Hugo Swire Impersonates Ostrich In British Parliament
By Burma Campaign UK

Update on Burma Army Activity in Kachin State and Northern Shan State
By Free Burma Rangers

Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall Trial in Thailand: Charge is Dismissed due to Unlawful Interrogation Process
By Finnwatch

Central Standing Committee after 15th KNU Congress Third Emergency Meeting Statement
By Karen National Union

အလြတ္သတင္းေထာက္ ကိုေအာင္ေက်ာ္ႏိုင္ (ခ) ကိုပါႀကီး အသတ္ခံရမႈအေပၚ သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Member of Parliament Union (1990)

ညီေနာင္တိုင္းရင္းသားပါတီမ်ား ဖက္ဒေရးရွင္း၏ (၂၀)ႀကိမ္ေျမာက္ ပုံမွန္အစည္းအေ၀း သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Nationalities Brotherhood Federation

ဘိန္းႏံြတြင္းမွ ျပည္သူတို႔၏ ငိုရႈိက္သံမ်ားကို တာ၀န္ရွိသူတိုင္းက ၾကားသိ ကယ္တင္ႏိုင္ရန္
By Pa-O Youth Organization, Action for High Land Society Development

Readout of the President’s Call to Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma
By The White House

Announcement of Treasury Sanctions Against Aung Thaung
By U.S. Department of the Treasury

U.S. Embassy Rangoon: Ambassador Derek Mitchell’s Visit to Kachin State
By US Embassy Rangoon

အလြတ္တန္း သတင္းေထာက္ ကိုေအာင္ေက်ာ္ႏိုင္ (ခ) ကိုပါႀကီးကို ပစ္ခတ္ သတ္ျဖတ္မႈအား ပြင့္လင္းျမင္သာစြာ စုံစမ္းေဖာ္ထုတ္၍ ျပစ္မႈ က်ဴးလြန္သူမ်ားကို ျပည္သူေရွ႕ေမွာက္တြင္ မွန္ကန္စြာ တရားစီရင္ေပးရန္ ေတာင္းဆိုျခင္း
By United National Democratic Organization

Myanmar: UN Human Rights Expert Commends Reforms to Date, but Warns of Risks of Backtracking
By United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


“ဘိန္းႏြံတြင္းက ငိုရႈိက္သံ” အစီရင္ခံစာ
By Pa-O Youth Organization, Action for High Land Society Development

Pro-Business or Pro-Poor?
By Transnational Institute

This post is in: Weekly Highlights