The 5Rs in Myanmar: Towards a future federal democratic system where working people can flourish

Primer

Authors: Jennifer Franco, Jun Borras

This primer is about ‘the 5Rs’ and land and natural resource politics. The 5Rs is a set of five principles: Recognition, Restitution, Redistribution, Regeneration, and Representation/Resistance. The primer briefly explores the idea of a working people’s program on land and natural resources in Myanmar based on these five principles in the context of a future federal democratic system.

Read on original website: https://www.tni.org/en/publication/the-5rs-in-myanmar

Download full primer: ENGLISH

STOP THE WEAPONIZATION OF HUMANITARIAN AID BY THE MYANMAR MILITARY JUNTA

20 June 2021

Prioritize the provision of humanitarian aid through local civil society and community-based organizations

On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, 488 civil society organizations call on the United Nations and international community to ensure that provision of humanitarian aid is not weaponized by the junta in their campaign of terror against the people of Myanmar. To avoid this, the UN agencies, international donors and humanitarian organizations must prioritize the provision of humanitarian aid through local civil society and humanitarian organizations, ethnic service providers, including cross-border aid, to best support those affected by the humanitarian and human rights crisis unfolding in Myanmar as a direct result of the military’s brutal attacks following its unlawful coup attempt on February 1. The groups also call on countries neighboring Myanmar to protect the rights of refugees fleeing the military’s violence.

Over a quarter of a million people have been displaced in ethnic areas since the start of the Myanmar military’s failed coup. The military junta has repeatedly impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need. They are thus using the dire humanitarian situation of those who have been displaced to weaponize humanitarian aid, withholding it as part of their campaign of terror.

Under international humanitarian law, all parties to the conflict must “facilitate the free passage of humanitarian assistance.” Contravening this, the military has blocked humanitarian aid from being delivered to many ethnic areas while deliberately destroying people’s food storage including in Karen, Kachin, Karenni, Chin and Shan States. The most salient case was the 8 June burning of rice, medicine and other essential humanitarian aid, as well as the vehicle carrying the aid that was on its way to Pekhon Township where some of the 100,000 Karenni IDPs have been sheltering. “Willfully impeding relief supplies” as a tactic of starvation is considered a method of warfare and is a war crime. In addition, the military has targeted and intimidated humanitarian aid workers and volunteers, killing, injuring, arbitrarily arresting and torturing those who work on the frontlines.

COVID-19 has added another layer of insecurity in the already deteriorating human rights and humanitarian crisis, as rising cases lead to lockdowns in towns across Myanmar. The military had been weaponizing COVID-19 to crack down on prodemocracy activists, human rights defenders and journalists prior to the coup. In keeping with this pattern, the junta has seized on the opportunity to leverage the administration of vaccines to crack down on the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Worsening the humanitarian crisis compounded by COVID-19, in Hpa-An, Karen State, junior doctors have been urged to leave the CDM in order to receive their second dose of the vaccine. They received their first dose before the coup but refused to take the second vaccine under such conditions.

Meanwhile, activists and supporters of the Spring Revolution, as well as ethnic people who are under threat from the military’s airstrikes and artillery shelling continue to attempt to escape the military’s violence but have not been able to seek refuge in neighboring countries of Thailand and India. In Thailand, refugees who seek temporary refuge have been unable to access the assistance of the UNHCR and INGOs. Instead, they have been sent back to Karen State where they continue to face the threat of attacks by the Myanmar military.

Let us be reminded on this day that the current mass human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar was triggered and has been shaped by the brutal, violent, unrelenting, murderous, and oppressive actions of the Myanmar military. This is the same military that committed genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine State and has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in ethnic areas for decades. The extreme and heinous violence has been committed by one side, led by a criminal who must be tried and held to account for grave international crimes. It disheartens those who have made immense sacrifices to protect and promote the values and principles of humanity when humanitarianism is used to mask the absence of action to address the root causes and hold accountable the perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis. Lending legitimacy to this junta is counterproductive to ending this humanitarian crisis and goes against the wishes of those who are sacrificing so much to resist and can even further embolden and enable this junta to carry on with its terror acts.

The United Nations and international community must focus its work on assisting local CSOs, particularly the ethnic service providers, to address the current human rights and humanitarian crisis. The neighboring countries and ASEAN must protect the people fleeing from Myanmar to seek refuge and cooperate with the UN and international community. The regional CSOs’ support and solidarity in this struggle has been vital and strengthens our resolve to continue to resist the brutal military junta.

On World Refugee Day, we must listen to the voices of refugees worldwide and recognize and strengthen their agency and the role of those displaced inside Myanmar and outside, the local hosts and ethnic service providers that continue to assist them, often at great personal risk. The current unfolding crisis in Myanmar may be one of the biggest challenges they have faced. However, they have served the needs of their communities under the iron fist of previous military rule and decades of offensives by the same military, and now they continue to uphold the values of humanity, dignity, and rights with courage while having to endure immense suffering. As neighboring countries refuse to take in refugees, turning them away at the border without adequate assistance, it is the local CSOs who have stepped in to fill the void, despite limited resources and constraints placed by the military. They deserve nothing less than our full support and genuine partnership.

We call on the United Nations and international community to:
* Ensure that provision of humanitarian aid does not legitimize the military and does not enable the military to further weaponize humanitarian aid in their campaign of terror;
* Recognize the role of and provide humanitarian assistance through local service providing civil society and community-based organizations, including cross-border aid;
* Take direction from and consult and collaborate with the National Unity Government and ethnic armed organizations in provision of aid;
* Disengage from working relations with the junta in the provision of humanitarian aid;
* Provide flexible and timely funds and resources to local civil society and community-based organizations that have robust and effective systems for providing emergency support;
* Urge neighboring countries to protect the rights of refugees by allowing them to take refuge and access to UNHCR and INGOs as well as humanitarian organizations for their immediate and unimpeded assistance.

Signed by 488 civil society organizations including:

  1. African Great Lakes Action Network
  2. American Baptist Churches of Nebraska
  3. American Baptist Churches USA
  4. Arakan American Community (AAC)
  5. Arakan Watch
  6. Burma Human Rights Network
  7. Burma Task Force
  8. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
  9. Calgary Karen Community Association (CKCA)
  10. California Karen Youth Forum
  11. Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
  12. Chin Baptist Churches USA
  13. Coalition of Rohingya Organisations in Malaysia
  14. Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, KY
  15. DEEKU, the Karenni Community, USA
  16. Edmonton Karen Community Youth Organization
  17. European Karen Network
  18. Finland Karen Culture Association
  19. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa)
  20. Ignite Ministry, Inc
  21. International Karen Organisation
  22. Kachin Alliance
  23. Kachin Peace Network
  24. Kansas Karenni community, KS, USA
  25. Karen Association of Huron, SD, USA
  26. Karen Community of Akron, OH, USA
  27. Karen Community of Canada (KCC)
  28. Karen Community of Czech Republic
  29. Karen Community of Finland
  30. Karen Community of Hamilton
  31. Karen Community of Iowa, IA, USA
  32. Karen Community of Ireland
  33. Karen Community of Israel
  34. Karen Community of Kansas City, KS & MO, USA
  35. Karen Community of Kitchener & Waterloo
  36. Karen Community of Leamington
  37. Karen Community of Lethbridge
  38. Karen Community of London
  39. Karen Community of Minnesota, MN, USA
  40. Karen Community of North Carolina, NC, USA
  41. Karen Community of Ottawa
  42. Karen Community of Regina
  43. Karen Community of Rock Island, IL, USA
  44. Karen Community of Saskatoon
  45. Karen Community of Syracuse, USA
  46. Karen Community of Thunderbay
  47. Karen Community of Toronto
  48. Karen Community of Windsor
  49. Karen Community of Winnipeg
  50. Karen Community Society of British Columbia (KCSBC)
  51. Karen Organization of America
  52. Karen Organization of San Diego
  53. Karen Peace Support Network
  54. Karen Swedish Community
  55. Karen Youth Education Pathways
  56. Karen Youth of Norway
  57. Karen Youth of Toronto
  58. Karen Youth Organization
  59. Karenni Community of Bowling Green, KY, USA
  60. Karenni community of Des Moines, IA, USA
  61. Karenni Community of Georgia, GA, USA
  62. Karenni community of Indianapolis, IN, USA
  63. Karenni Community of Massachusetts, MA, USA
  64. Karenni community of Minnesota, MN, USA
  65. Karenni Community of Missouri, MO, USA
  66. Karenni Community of New York, NY, USA
  67. Karenni Community of North Carolina, NC, USA
  68. Karenni Community of Portland, OR, USA
  69. Karenni Community of Taxes, TX, USA
  70. Karenni Community of Wisconsin, WI, USA
  71. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  72. Karenni Refugee Committee
  73. Karenni Refugee Committee
  74. Karenni Society of Minnesota, MN, USA
  75. Korea Karen Organization
  76. Korea Karen Youth Organization
  77. Never Again Coalition
  78. Oversea Karen Organization Japan
  79. Progressive Voice
  80. Rohingya American Society
  81. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
  82. Rohingya Student Network
  83. Rohingya Women Development Forum
  84. The Sound of Hope
  85. The Urban Village
  86. US Campaign for Burma
  87. Utica Karen Community, NY, US

Note: Due to serious security concerns, names of 401 local civil society organizations who endorsed and signed this statement cannot be disclosed. The signed CSOs work on range of humanitarian, human rights protection, and rights-based issues in Myanmar.

For further information, please contact:
* Khin Ohmar, info@progressive-voice.org
* Saw Alex, thuebee@gmail.com
* Luiz, kaypoe@gmail.com


Download PDF in English and Burmese.

Condemnation of the Myanmar Military

Condemnation of the Myanmar Military

March 2, 2021

Today, so-called “Farmers Day”, we condemn the killing of protesters by the military junta, as we condemn the long history of violent repression of farmers and widespread land-grabbing in our villages.

  1. The military council which has committed high treason is continuing its brutal crackdown and unprovoked attacks on unarmed protestors across the country; the acts include killings, arbitrary arrests, trespassing into people’s homes, destroying and stealing people’s property & food.
  2. There are already nearly 30 innocent people are dead and over 1,000 have been arrested and detained, since 1st February 2021.
  3. Today marks the 59th year of the officially and dishonestly declared “Farmers’ Day”, when the first military coup happened and many peasants, workers, and students, from many different ethnic nationalities, were murdered. We totally condemn and reject the fake “Farmers’ Day”!
  4. We strongly condemn every brutal crackdown and criminal act perpetrated by the military, since then and until now, including the grabbing of land from villagers all across the country.
  5. We declare the military and police force as terrorist groups for their violent acts on peaceful protestors.
  6. We are a key part of the people’s resistance today, as we have been in the past, and will remain so in the future, so long as it takes to get back all the lands that have been grabbed; to completely eradicate fascism; and to build a federal union that is true and faithful to the people’s aspirations for real democracy. And when that day comes, we will celebrate true peace by declaring a genuine Farmers Day.

Reject Fascism & Let’s Build Federal Democracy!

Land in Our Hands

GSCN marched in Yangon

11 February 2021

လူမျိုးပေါင်းစုံအထွေထွေသပိတ်ကော်မတီ၏ တပ်မတော်အာဏာသိမ်းခြင်းအား ကန့်ကွက်ကြောင်းနဲ့ ဖက်ဒရယ်ပြည်ထောင်စုကြီး တည်ဆောက်ရေးတို့အတွက် တိုင်ရင်းသားလူမျိုး (၁၈) မျိုးမှ လူငယ်များ၊ ကျောင်းသားများ၊ နိုင်ငံရေးတက်ကြွလှုပ်ရှားသူများပါဝင်ကာ လူအင်အား ၅,၀၀၀ ကျော်မှ ဆန္ဒထုတ်ဖော်ခဲ့ကြပါသည်။

The General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN) marched in Yangon as condemnation of the military’s coup d’état and calling the actions towards building the federal democratic union. The Committee represents 18 ethnic groups of Myanmar and the march was joined by over 5,000 peoples including students & young activists.

#RejectMilitaryCoup
#Reject_Coup
#Reject_fascism

Condemnation of the Military’s Coup d’état

February 2, 2021

We strongly condemn the coup d’état by the Military on 1 February 2021 as high treason & armed criminality.

We firmly reject all forms of Fascism, Warlordism, Ultra-nationalism and Authoritarianism.

We demand the immediate release of political detainees and peasant detainees.

We resolutely joining the peoples’ movements towards democracy and human rights.

We resolutely joining the peoples’ movements until the end of Fascism and nullification of the 2008 Constitution.

“Reject Fascism &
Let’s Build Federal Democratic Nation”

Land in Our Hands

Brief Analysis for Shifting Cultivation [LIOH]

Brief Analysis on Legal Frameworks of Myanmar for Shifting Cultivation

December 2020

A lady dropping rice seeds in a plot of hillside cultivation. Customary communities help each other & collectively for livelihoods activities including farming. | Photo Credit: Southern Youth

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) is multi-ethnic national platform for land rights movements organized with civil society organizations, land rights defenders and allies throughout the country. LIOH is actively & positively contributing to Myanmar’s land reform, since 2014.

Shifting cultivation is popular & widespread around the world and Myanmar rural working peoples from many areas are continuing the shifting cultivation as their major livelihood activity for generations. It is essential that the government acknowledge the legitimacy of shifting cultivation livelihoods and recognize different systems of shifting cultivation with legal frameworks.

Existing land related laws in Myanmar are failing to clearly recognize and protect customary land systems including shifting cultivation and even criminalizing these systems and users.

The Law amending to the 2012-Farmland Law was adopted during February 2020, with an additional land type namely “shifting cultivation land”. This addition brings both potentials and concerns for shifting cultivation.

Analysis

Shifting cultivation is the main livelihoods for many families of rural working peoples and it is inter-connected with cultures, beliefs, conserving forest & environment, resource allocation & sharing and land governance within their territories.

Indigenous communities & rural working peoples are at the center of shifting cultivation operated by connecting the dots between the different uses of complex and intertwined natural resources, coordinating diverse approaches and rights, and overseeing whole regions; which is the core value of different customary land management systems. Customary land management system including shifting cultivation is the local tenure system with authority, thus the basic of federal system too.

Shifting cultivation is more than technical practice and it is embedded within social system of rural communities, which means just making additional land type is not enough. It would make worse if adding this land type is meant for granting land use certificate (like form-7), which is opposite to land ownership rights within customary land management systems.

Existing land related laws and land administrations in Myanmar are still conflicting with actual land use & practices. The Farmland Law (FLL), the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL), and the Forest Law are forcing for land titling, criminalizing customary land users and making dispossessions of their ancestral lands. Within these legal frameworks, a lot of unjust land cases are happening such as different forms of land grabbing, largescale land application or land grants, and suing the customary land users.

The myths about and illogical accusations to shifting cultivation such as – it is inefficient, it causes air pollution, it contributes to climate change, it causes poverty & it degrades forest – are barriers to the development of policy & legal frameworks protecting shifting cultivation & its users.

Customary land management systems including shifting cultivation are related with agriculture, forest, natural resources, environment & ecology, traditions & cultures, and ethnic & indigenous issues. A critical question is that who (which department) would govern these complex & important systems by what (which principles) and how (which legal frameworks).

Recommendations

Customary land management systems including shifting cultivation need specific legal protection and administration. All the processes of legislation and development for the administration must ensure the representation of affected communities, potentially vulnerable communities, IDPs & refugees, customary communities, concern civil societies and ethnic armed groups.

The legal frameworks must respect the following articles:
* The UN Convention of Human Rights – the article 17.1 & 17.2 and the article 25.1.
* The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – the article 10, 11.1, 25, 26.1, 26.2 & 26.3.
*The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) – the article 28, 17.1, 17.3 & 17.4.
* The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (CFS-TG) – the Chapter 9.

A federal land law that ensures the peoples’ rights to land of peasants, rural working peoples and customary communities, is required.
* Until the federal land law can be established, there must be NO activity related to forcing for land registration, largescale land allocation or accepting largescale land applications, grabbing the land of and legal proceedings to peasants & customary communities.
* The legal framework & effective mechanisms must be established & implemented to restitute & provide remedies for the sufferings of the people (including IDPs and victims of evictions) who have lost their land by either of armed conflicts, mega projects or existing laws; the people who are facing trials or have sent to prison for defending their land; and landless peoples.

Peace building in Myanmar is the equivalent of land reform processes and genuine federal land governance is the only solution for both processes.
* As a nation that needs federal democratic reform, there must be revision of policies & laws relating to customary land systems including shifting cultivation, land use and livelihoods of rural working peoples.
* The Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law must be abolished as it is hostile to shifting cultivation and customary land systems.

– Contact –

1. Ko Si Thu         09 790 739 488
2. Mi Kamoon     09 401 601 822
3. Saw Alex           09 776 540 471

Land in Our Hands (LIOH)
https://lioh.org,
landsinourhands@gmail.com


Download the brief analysis: Burmese and English


Recommended Readings –
De-crimilalise Agro-Forestry:
သီးနှံသစ်တောရောနှောစိုက်ပျိုးရေးစနစ်ကို ပြစ်မှုကြောင်းအရ အရေးမယူဘဲ ဖြေလျှော့ပေးခြင်း

LIOH Endorses the Proposal for Reforming Defamation Laws

December 2020

LIOH endorses the proposal for reform of Myanmar’s oppressive defamation laws. The proposal is launched by FEM to end years of oppressive, anti-democratic, and scandalous criminal cases under 66(d) and Myanmar’s five other defamation laws. It includes four options: adopting a civil defamation law, adding stronger defenses to the Penal Code, removing all prison sentences, and limiting cases to deliberate and serious defamation only.


See the full proposal on FEM Webpage:
http://freeexpressionmyanmar.org/defamation-reform-proposals/


Federal Land Governance (Online Discussion) – October 2020

LIOH hosted a zoom meeting discussion on Federal Land Governance (FLG) together with Burma Environmental Working Group (BEWG), Metta Development Foundation (Metta) and Kayah Earthrights Action Network (KEAN) on 14 October 2020. There were altogether 4 panelists and moderated by LIOH. This one-and-a-half hour discussion was streamed live on LIOH Facebook Page[1]. There were 98 registered people as zoom attendance[2] and LIVE streamed video on the Facebook Page reached up to 1.8K views.

The purpose of the FLG dialogue is “to raise the concerns around government’s current land reform situation” and “to consolidate the demands towards a federal land governance”. The outline questions for discussions are based on:
* The reflection & insights on the current situation around reform processes
* What is the direction of reform processes – are they moving forwards or shifting from federal goals
* What & how can we do to move forward to the federal land governance?

The discussion was organized with 2 main sessions with Q&A at the end. The first session allowed the panelists to express more on reflection, analyses & insights; and second session is followed by how can we move forward. Panelists took part for different topics and covered broad range of issues those all related to land reform & federalism for Myanmar – from history to the federal dreams in the near future.

  • Looking at the Past, Reflecting the Present and setting the Federal Goal

This topic is discussed by Ko Si Thu from LIOH and includes the reflection on land reform efforts throughout the historical timeline. It also covers why the land reform pathway is shifted away from federal and what are the elements of federal land governance

  • Reform Processes Insights & Federal Possibilities

This topic is discussed by Saw Eh Say from KEAN and includes the detail analysis on the reform processes and current mechanisms around peace & land. It also raised the possibilities towards federal land governance. 

  • FOOD: System, Sovereignty & Federal

This topic is discussed by Ma San Wai from Metta and explains the linkages amongst land, resources, food production, and exploitation of capitalism. She used the concrete examples of how peasants are wiped away from subsistent farming to urban squatters and raised critical questions.

  • LAND: Resource, Conflicts & Federal Governance

This topic is discussed by Ko Khun Oo from BEWG and stressed out why peace processes were failed in the past & how it’s repeating in present situation. He highlighted the power sharing amongst Union & State governments and to consider 5Rs[3] for land reform/ governance.


[1] The original plan to stream on both LIOH Page & Khit-Thit Media Page at the same time though, technical issues allowed streaming only on LIOH Page.
[2] Actual attendance at discussion time is 60 participants
[3] Recognition, Restitution, Regeneration, Representation & Redistribution


The LIVE streamed video can be watched on LIOH Facebook Page.

LIOH’s Position Paper for an Umbrella Land Law

October 2020

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) is a multi-ethnic national platform where smallholder farmers, customary communities, local farmer organizations, supportive community-based organizations and allied CSOs across country comes together for the peoples’ rights to land. LIOH believes that the promoting, protecting, respecting & fulfilling the land tenure rights of smallholder farmers, small-scale land users, fisher-folks, and particularly of rural youth, women & ethnic communities, and including those who have been and remain displaced due to war/armed conflict, big development projects, and/or big conservation schemes,  is integral to the realization of their human rights and  is essential in striving for durable peace with social and economic justice, genuinely equitable and sustainable development in the country. In this regards, LIOH always contribute Myanmar land reform effort by commenting and criticizing positively.

A national statement, a congregated discussions of (& demands from) land rights CSOs, farmers and IDPs from different states & regions in 2018, says existing laws, amending laws and bills related to land are not proceeded democratically; are not based on sufficient policy & principles; but they are enacted without proper public consultation. The statement also demands to abolish VFV law[1] and to make a federal land law that respects the land ownership rights & management, and includes the measures reinstating the territories[2].

LIOH also demands that the process of drafting a land law should resolve the existing land issues and land conflicts justly; should guarantee the peoples’ sovereignty on land & natural resources in the future; should be the democratic process where the affected and vulnerable peoples can decide[3]. Currently, the government is initiating some efforts for drafting a national land law those include forming committees/working committees, creating roadmap and drafting work-plan. Therefore, LIOH together with its allies from different states and regions, prepared this position paper composed with the principles that an umbrella land law must be based on, after analyzing the current land rights situations through the perspectives of peoples’ rights to land.


Download the full position paper in English and Burmese.


[1] The Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law 2012 and the Amendments 2018
[2] https://lioh.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/LIOH_statement_20180523_MM.pdf
[3] LIOH_comment_on_NLUP_forum.pdf