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

Toward a future land governance system (KEAN’s Analysis)

Toward a future land governance system: Section II

September 2020

Now is the time to question the current national land law drafting process whether and how it ensures federal land governance or how it secures the rights to land of indigenous peoples, peasants and working peoples.

Toward a future land governance system: Section II

Since 2012, Land reforms ensued along with political transition under the new government administration in Myanmar. Some significant reforms included the enactment of new land sector related laws and regulations as well as the annulment of old laws. But the new legislations received criticisms and protests for failing to recognize and protect the land rights of indigenous peoples, farmers, peasants, and land-dependent working people, on top of its impracticality on the ground. Although the National Land Use Policy (NLUP) was passed in 2016, the level of acceptance varies. The drafting process of NLUP faced widespread protest from the people ranging from the land-dependent working people, peasants, indigenous peoples to land rights advocates and the technical experts at different levels, from the grassroots up to the union level, for not being a transparent process and its shortcomings in protecting the right to land. However, as the NLUP has been approved in January 2016 and one of the objectives of the policy is to enact a new national land law, therefore, under its direction, National Land Use Council has formed working committees, sub-groups and supporting groups, and started to organize meetings since 2018. By 2020, the process for drafting a new national land law appears to have gained more momentum.

Therefore, it has become critical to monitor the formulation process how the government will implement the established workplans and objectives while questioning the drafting process of the National Land Law. Discussions and decision making around land is not only about land issue but also directly linked to politics, national reconciliation and peace, and building a federal democratic union. Hence, land issue is included as one of the sectors being discussed in the national peace process. Fundamentally, it has become crucial to question first if the land ownership and management rights of the land-dependent working people, peasants, workers and indigenous people would be protected in the new law, and how the law would benefit and provide security for them. From there, another question would be how the new national land law would support the federal land management and what kind of approaches are to be taken to materialize it. Then, how the national land law will support and have coherence with the national peace and reconciliation process and the building of federal democratic union needs to be further explored. Hence, review needs to be done regarding to the approaches taken towards formulation of the National Land Law in terms of their status, the stakeholders directly involved, and the procedures.

Initial steps of the National Land Use Council and Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management

Visions and objectives of National Land Law development include the aspiration towards a future federal union, and to sustainably promote transparency, justice, equality, sustainable development, peace, land rights, socio-economic and food security. Additionally, it is to support the systematic implementation of Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP), Myanmar Climate Change Policy, Federal & Peace – Union Peace Accord, conflict resolution, land tenure and security, sustainable development goals, and compliance with other international standards such as (Crisis/ Conflict, Land Tenure & Security, Sustainable Development Goals- SDG, International Compliance).

Article 77 (a) of National Land Use Policy ratified in January, 2016, states that “A new National Land Law shall be drafted and enacted, using this National Land Use Policy as a guide for the harmonization of all existing laws relating to land in the country”. To implement the policy, a National Land Use Council was established with a decree no. 15/2018 from the Union Government on January 17, 2018 and assigned Vice President U Henry Van Thio as Chair of the Council. The council has since convened bi-yearly for five times. As part of the workplans of National Land Law formulation, the council has organized meetings to develop Myanmar national mapping system, and with other respective departments to identify prioritized plans. By late 2018, state/region level national land use committees were formed – in some areas, up to the level of district and township.

On January 27, 2020, National Land Use Council signed a Record of Discussion (RoD) for collaboration with the European Union (EU) and Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SCC) to collaborate on the activities to be implemented by the National Land Use Council. The RoD states that EU will provide financial assistance of approximately 5 million Euro for 4 years for “Promoting Integrated Land Use Planing and Management in Myanmar” project through Food and Agriculture – FAO, in order to contribute towards land sector reform.

The National Land Use Council, in order for the development of National Land Law making process through the establishment of working committees and work plans, formed the Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management with the decree no. 3/2019 on August 1, 2019. The committee organized two workshops on December 19-20, 2019 and January 29-20, 2020 in accordance with decisions from the first working committee meeting held on October 2, 2019. The workplans from the workshops were approved during the 2nd meeting of the Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management which was held on July 17, 2020. Announcement of the Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management on August 17, 2020 called for suggestions and feedback on the draft workplan of the National Land Law formulation process with the deadline of September 15, 2020.

According to the draft workplan of National Land Law formulation process, the law formulation process will begin in mid-2020 and to be completed in 2022. Meeting on workplan of National Land Law formulation process identifies 25 points and three most crucial points are:

  1. To share the process for drafting the National Land Law with the public and conduct public consultations
  2. To make preparations to draft the National Land Law
  3. To draft the National Land Law

To implement the workplan, the working committee has a mandate to form subgroups consisting of supporting groups, technical assistance groups and external experts, and other stakeholders, and to assign their roles and responsibilities. Officials from the respective government departments were selected as chairs or members or secretaries based on the title of the sub-groups, while civil society representatives are invited to participate. By late 2020, sub-groups started to function. Seven sub-groups have been set up which included:

  1. A sub-group on harmonizing laws, corruption eradication, rule of law, steps for land management organization structure, and national-level collaboration
  2. A sub-group on land types and land classification, land information portal, land use plan/project, zoning and mapping, urban land use, and management related issue
  3. A sub-group on rights, land ownership (tenure), land confiscation, compensation, forced re-location, resolution of land-related conflict, return of land to original owner or land substitution and squatter issues
  4. A sub-group on indigenous peoples and customary land rights
  5. A sub-group on immovable property (land) tax, and other taxes
  6. A sub-group on budget, donor relation, coordination with Non-governmental organizations
  7. A sub-group on public communication and online portal system

Review on Myanmar’s land reform to date

Although both USDP-led administration in 2012 and the new NLD-led administration in 2015 has embarked on land reforms along with political transition process, neither has yet made any significant changes or success. The new land-related laws, regulations and policies appear to protect land ownership of the elite and legitimize their land claim obtained through land grabbing, rather than to protect right to land of the land-dependent working people, peasants, workers and the indigenous peoples. As a result, across the country, ancestral and customary lands of the local people are being confiscated, especially that of the indigenous peoples. They are being incriminated and imprisoned, and suffered from loss of their land. Many see their livelihoods destroyed, and their socio-economic status damaged. Despite some land reforms carried out during the early days of the new Government administration in 2015, no significant change has happened.

On the other hand, land reforms issues have been discussed at the national level political dialogues. During the second gathering of 21st Century Panglong conference held in May, 2017 and the third gathering of 21st Century Panglong conference held in 2018, 51 principles including 12 principles on land and natural resource management as Part I and Part II of the Union Accord were agreed and signed. Although the parliament has approved the 51 principles, the actual implementation is yet to take place. However, those 12 principles on land and environment agreed at the 21st Century Panglong conference are still not strong agreements in line with federal land management especially because they did not include the right to land ownership and management of the indigenous peoples, but rather intended to implement the agreed principles in line with the existing laws. Moreover, concepts relating to federal land management are missing in the agreement. Most importantly, it did not include how to solve the issues of land confiscation by the military and right to land of the internally displaced people due to civil wars. As a result, land reform process through the peace process has not made significant progress on federal land management but only at the level of agreement which is to conform with the existing laws, procedures and policies.

Harmony between the 21st Century Panglong conference and implementation of National Land Law formulation process

The 4th Session of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong conference was held in August, 2020, and brought together representatives from the government and the ethnic armed organizations that have signed National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). During the conference, part III of the Union Accord was endorsed together, and included 20 points of the agreement and work plans and implementations in the post-2020. In general, the plan to implement 51 principles agreed at 21st Century Panglong conference, were mentioned in the part III, agreement 1, and the stage-by-stage work programmes and step-by-step in the post-2020 were mentioned in agreement 2, and fundamental principles to establish a Union based on democracy and federal system in agreement 3. Meanwhile, workplan spearheaded by the National Land Use Council to formulate National Land Law becomes more concrete by the time the 21st Panglong conference was held in mid-2020.

According to the workplan of the draft National Land Law formulation process, implementation will begin in mid-2020. Therefore, there should be a review on how transparent and inclusive the process has been and will be; the representation of those participating and to what extent they can participate; autonomy and justice; if there is sufficient time given; and how Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the local communities, local groups and organizations would be obtained. There should be a review on whether the members have any liberty to make decisions or express their views/positions in the process to develop a national land law.

In accordance with the National Land Use Policy approved in January, 2016, National Land Use Council was established with decree no. 15/2018 on January 17, 2018. National Land Use Council consists of 15 members. The Vice President (2) chairs the council and the Union Minister of Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment Conservation serves as the secretary. According to the National Land Law draft making workplan, the draft prepared by the supporting groups and the sub-groups should be submitted to the National Land Use Council through the work committee and the National Land Use Council is responsible for reviewing the law draft and to proceed with the next steps. Most of the members of the council are high level officials from the respective Union Ministries. Therefore, it is critical to monitor their capability, political will and the approach to take ensure that the national land law reflects and protects federal land management system, or the right to land of the indigenous people and the land-dependent working class people.

National Land Use Council is also responsible to set up state/region and pyidaungsu (Naypyitaw council) level land use committees, and they did accordingly, starting from late 2018. Kayah (Karenni) State land use committee was established in October, 2018 and it was also directed to establish one at the district level. The chief minister of Kayah is the chair of state land use committee while the director from State Forestry Department is the secretary. The committee is comprised of 22 layers with 27 members. The 17 layers of the committee consists of 17 officials from the respective ministry departments, and the remaining 5 layers have 10 representatives – 4 from CSOs, 2 farmers, 2 local ethnic people, and 2 community leaders. Therefore, the current composition is a clear example of how local people are not being fairly represented in the committee because majority of the members, who are government representatives, will override the votes in case of making important decision for the local people. Hence, any proposal to achieve federal land management system or security of land rights of the indigenous people or land rights of the land-dependent working-class people and peasants will definitely fail to go forward. Kayah State Land Use Committee have held five meetings so far, and it has been over one year since the last meeting, meaning the committee operation is non-functional.  

Furthermore, there should be a review on the ‘Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management”, which was established with the decree no.3/2019 on August 1, 2019. In addition, composition and representation in sub-groups and supporting groups formed by the Work Committee should be reviewed based on whether it has been transparent, and their ability to make free and just decisions. Especially it is crucial how they can contribute towards fostering federal land management system or security of land rights of the indigenous people or land rights of the land-dependent working-class people and peasants.

With the leadership of the Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management, sub-groups have been implementing workplans to formulate a draft National Land Law; their undertakings should fully collaborate with stakeholders from other respective sectors to ensure a federal land management system or security of land rights of the indigenous people or land rights of the land-dependent working-class people and peasants. Otherwise, negative consequences deriving from the process could become a roadblock on the pathway towards building national peace and reconciliation, and a federal democratic union. Approaches to foster a future federal land management system or security of land rights of the indigenous people or land rights of the land-dependent working-class people and peasants should be prioritized.

Identifying alternative channels or going beyond the current framework

There should be a review on the implementation process of the draft work plan of the Work Committee on Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of Laws Related with Land Management, formed by the National Land Use council to analyze how much they have linkages or deviate from the future land management system or a federal land management system development. Organizations working on federal land issues and land rights, and the indigenous peoples have been striving to develop a federal land management system for a very long time.

It is necessary to have a strong land policy to foster land reforms; which is why individuals, organizations, associations from various sectors across the country provided comments/feedback to the National land use policy which was approved in January, 2016, in multiple forms as the land right activists, organizations, networks, individuals and experts collaborated during the process. However, acceptance of the policy varies until today, especially if we look at the policy from the lens of the security of land rights of the indigenous people or the land-dependent working class people and peasants which are not strongly guaranteed.  

National land use policy, passed in January 2016, is the first policy directly related to land; the policy states that a national land law shall be enacted. Therefore, National Land Use Council started working to formulate a national land law starting from 2018 and they started to inform the public regarding the draft National Land Law formulation process by mid-2020. Formation of sub-groups and planned activities shall be implemented with timeline according to the draft workplan of the process. The draft workplan was made publicly available on August 17, 2020; and all suggestions/feedback shall be submitted by September 15, 2020. Therefore, the process would go forward as planned.

Thus, those who are working on fostering a federal land management system must continue fighting for the development of a new Federal Land Law. To achieve our original goal, we should seek for alternative channels as soon as possible, not only following the current mechanism. It would be a risk to assume that current draft workplan and mechanism will lead us to attaining our ultimate goal gradually. Current structure requires sub-groups and supporting groups, which were established to formulate a draft national land law and to submit any suggested changes to National Land Use Council; on that account, the council is pivotal in ratifying the draft law. Legislation will then follow. There is no way of knowing how much autonomy the council has or how transparent or just their conduct is. On top of that, the council is highly centralized. Should we follow and participate in the current draft land law formulation process, we might be able to make our voices heard, but could not be involved in decision making. Current composition of sub-groups, supporting groups and the Work Committee for National Land Law formulation and Harmonizing Land Management Related Laws is a proof for that and our aspirations for a federal land management system is still far-fetched.

Thus, peoples struggling to foster a federal land management system must increasingly seek for alternative channels in line with our original visions and objectives, without giving in to the formal mechanism. The reason is that visions and objectives of the draft national law formulation describe that the drafting shall be based on 21st Century Panglong accord; nevertheless, chances to achieve a federal land management system is small since the accord does not include a federal land management system. Moreover, although Hluttaw approved Union Peace Accord agreed on 21st Century Panglong conference, they cannot go beyond the 2008 constitution, and the failed attempt to amend the constitution is a case in point. As long as 2008 constitution, which is a barrier to the process for building a federal democratic union, prevails over others legal instruments, genuine political reforms will still be unlikely and a federal land management system could never emerge from 2008 constitution. Thus, we would like to recommend to collaborate among each other under different strategies and keep on moving forward to realize a new federal land management system.


Download the paper in English and Burmese.

Karenni CSOs’ Statement on Action Plan for National Land Law Drafting (September 2020)

Kayah (Karenni) State’s civil society organizations’ statement on the announcement of the Working Committee on the Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of the laws related to Land Management on the  National Land Law Action Plan (Draft)

Date: 8th September, 2020

The below points, submitted as suggestions prior to the deadline of September 15th 2020, represent the stance of the civil society organizations of Kayah (Karenni) State regarding the announcement of the Working Committee on the Drafting the National Land Law and Harmonization of the laws related to Land Management on the  National Land Law Action Plan (Draft) of 17th August 2020:

  1. It is crucial that the National Land Law provides genuine protections for the security of the land rights, land management rights, and land ownership of Myanmar nationals, smallholder farmers, indigenous people, subsistence farmers, and grassroots people.
  2. Although it is stated that the National Land Use Policy will be used as a guide for the drafting of a new National Land Law, as the National Land Law will cover all laws concerning land, all actions towards the National Land Law must be reviewed and scrutinized through transparent and inclusive processes.
  3. Before proceeding with drafting the National Land Law, there must be priority given to evaluating and improvingthe present substance, influence and consistency of the National Land Use Policy, that was approved in 2016. Primarily, there must be time taken to review it against human rights standards and; international land, natural resource, and environmental standards, as well as the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan, the National Environment Policy, and the Union Accords from the Union Peace Conference – 21st Panglong.
  4. The coverage, capacity, independence and genuine representation of those holding responsibilities and authority within the working committees and sub-working groups for producing a new National Land Law must be reviewed.The 2016 National Land Use Policy, the institutions established under this policy; the National Land Use Council, and other working committees; and sub- working groups and supporting working groups and their actions evidence that they have strongly worked to form wholly centralized groups. Thus, we have no confidence and gurantee in the emergence of a genuine National Land Law that will provide protections benefitting all of the stakeholders mentioned in point (1).
  5. The 2016 National Land Use Policy, and all of the presently enacted land management laws lack protections and actions affording respect, recognition; and specific, concrete provisions concerning the management and decision-making rights of ethnic minorities, tribes and indigenous peoples over their customary land management, land, natural resources, and territory. Moreover, there is no trust in the present processes to establish a new National Land Law as the Union Accords and the points covering the whole country relating to the sector of the land and the environment that were signed at the Union Peace Conference – the 21st Panglong have also disregarded the strengthening of recognition and protections for the land rights of local residents, and indigenous people.
  6. In particular, extreme caution must be exercised in taking sensitive, simplistic actions towards the drafting of a National Land Law in a period of implementing national peace, national reconciliation and the establishment of a federal democratic union. Otherwise, it will not only significantly detriment these processes, it will also create new problems.
  7. Therefore, there must be actions, agreements and coordination with all relevant stakeholders to prioritize political transformation and the construction of a genuine federal democratic union. Only then can the land sector be transformed by step by step actions truly oriented towards establishing a genuine federal democratic union.

List of the Kayah (Karenni) States Civil Society Organizations endorsed in issuing the statement

  1. Progressive Karenni People Force (PKPF)
  2. Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY)
    • Karenni National Youth Organization (KNYO)
    • Karenni State Student Union (KSSU)
    • Kayan Women Organization (KyWO)
    •  Kayan New Generation Youth (KNGY)
  3. Karenni State Ethnic Youth Steering Committee
  4. Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN)
    • Karenni Ever Green (KEG)
    • Karenni Social Welfare Development Center (KSWDC)
    • Karenni Mobil Health Committee (KnMHC)
    • Karenni Development Research Group (KDRG)
    • Karenni Student Union (KSU)
    • Karenni National Youth Organization (KNYO)
    • Karenni Education Department (KnED)
    • Karenni National Women Organization (KNWO)
    • Karenni Legal and Human Right Center (KLHRC)
    • Karenni Refugee Committee (KnRC)
    • Karenni Literacy and Culture Development  Committee (KLCDC)
  5. Kayah Earthrights Action Network (KEAN)
  6. Myamar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (Karenni-MATA)
  7. Local Development Network (LDN)
  8. Mizzima Hnalone Thar Youth (Loikaw)
  9. Karenni State Farmer Union (KSFU)
  10. LAIN Technical Supporting Group
  11. Mawduklarmar Social Development Association (MSDA)
  12. Women for Women Foundation (WWF)
  13. Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG)
  14. Future Women Association (FWA)
  15. Kayah Baptist Association, Christian Social Service and Development Department (KBA-CSSDD)
  16. Kayah Liphu Youth (KLY)
  17. Kawyaw Youth (KYY)
  18. Kayaw Youth Organization (KYO)
  19. Yintaleh Youth (YY)
  20. New Generation Youth of Karen (Karenni State)
  21. Karenni Mega-Investment Watch (KMIW)
  22. Karenni Land Policy Developing Committee(KLPDC)
  23. Karenni State Youth Network (KSYN)
  24. Karuna Mission Social Solidarity-Loikaw (KMSS-Loikaw)

Download the Statement in English and Myanmar.

The Value of Land (short-clip)

The value of Land (Narrator: KT) | Youtube | Burmese Language
The value of Land (Narrator: TN) | Youtube | Burmese Language
The Value of Land (Narrator: KT) | Facebook | Burmese Language

Transcript of the clip “The Value of Land”

Land

Is LAND valuable?

Peoples usually answer “YES” and mostly in terms of monetary values for a plot of farm or a piece of land.

Does the land have more values other than monetary value?
What are the connections or relation between land and societies?

In Myanmar, 70% of population is living in rural areas and most of their livelihoods are depending on land. Different ethnic groups have different land management & governance systems passing through generations by generations; since before the current land laws are existed.

And rural livelihoods system is diverse, spread & connected like spider-web or spider-legs.

Since then, “people, forest & land” can’t be separated. Interests of individual people and of society are also merging in this system.

Land is not just a place to stay or a plot to grow (cultivate); it’s related with wider & deeper values such as culture, dignity, history, peace, sovereignty and so on.
* Land is not commodity;
* Land is identity for different tribes;
* Land is inheritance and memories;
* Land is the link amongst past, present & future;
* Land is sovereignty;

There’s no peace without land!


Condemnation on Proceedings & Attempt Arrest

Condemnation on Proceedings against and Attempted Arrest of Environmental Activist Saw Tha Boe

10 March 2020

  1. We, LIOH, are aware that there is a legal proceeding under Penal Code Section 505-b (Public Mischief) against and an attempted arrest of environmental activist Saw Tha Boe. We are also aware that the incident is related to traditional praying ceremony of village communities from Nat Kone Village of Bakat village Tract, happened on 17 January 2020.
  2. We, LIOH, STRONGLY CONDEMN such legal proceedings and attempted arrest.
    • Legal proceedings and attempted arrest based on traditional ceremony mean insulting customary practices and violating human rights & democracy standards.
    • Legal proceedings and attempted arrest of an environmental activist for practicing his/her rights to Peaceful Assembly & Freedom of Expression mean violating human rights & democracy standards and threatening the role of civil society.
    • Such unjust charges and attempted arrests are blemishes to current peace process and future federal nation building.
  3. Therefore, we, LIOH demands the government to respect human rights, civic rights, indigenous people’s rights, democracy standards and to immediately drop all the charges against environmental activist Saw Tha Boe.

– Contact –
Si Thu:                09790739488
Mi Kamoon:    09401601822


Download the statement (English) (Burmese)

Download the related Statements:
* Karen Rivers Watch (English) (Burmese)
* Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (Burmese)
* Save the Salween Network (English) (Burmese)

VFV Campaign Report

“There is no VFV in our area”: Compilation of Different Movements at National Level

March 2020 | Version-2

A Vinyl saying “Chin State doesn’t have VFV” is posted publicly in a village from Chin State. | Photo Credit: CLAN

Origin

The Vacant-Fallow-Virgin Land Management Law originated from the vacant-fallow-virgin land management notification issued in 1991 by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Military government) for the purpose of commoditizing land and to attract investments both for local & international businesses. It is also the notification set-up for facilitating land grabbing.

The government after 2010 general election continued to legitimize the previous land grabbing and human rights violations by transforming that notification into law in 2012. The law come out by direct order of MOALI Minister and without involvement of civil societies and land rights expertise. The Vacant-Fallow-Virgin Land Management Law 2012 (VFVL) meant to ease land grabbing under economic development and to be a tool for expanding land grabbing towards ethnic peoples’ area where armed conflicts are making difficult for confiscation.

Implications of VFV Law

The companies those are willing to invest, according to VFVL, can get the land up to 30,000 acres for 30 years (Section 10). The VFVL can be used to sue the farmers under encroachment (Section 27) and under disturbance (Section 28) which also enables the use of police forces for suppression.

Vacant-fallow-virgin land can be transformed into farmland (Section 34), allowing the land as collateral and commodity for leasing, mortgaging & selling (Farmland Law Section 9). That is challenging and undermining the livelihoods and live making of farmers however favoring the local & foreign business owners.

VFVL & the Farmland Law pressures individual land titling (to apply for land use certificate) that threatens rural agrarian societies where the peoples’ lives, cultural & customary practices, cropping patterns and ecologies are interconnected and inter-dependent. It challenges the presence of communal areas, culturally heritage areas and customary land management systems. And it makes permanent land loss for IDPs.

Amendments to VFV (2018)

VFVL amendments were proposed during 2017 and adopted on 11 September 2018. The amendments criminalize both farmers and people who are helping farmers defending their lands. It even sets the short deadline for individual land titling – anyone using the so-called-VFV land without permission is liable for penalties either fine or imprisonment or both.

So-called VFV land, according to Land Statistics Department, are mostly from ethnic areas and 45 million acres of them (out of 50 million acres) remains unregistered. It’s not practical to grant land titling for such a huge amount of land within short period of time and there are many experiences of farmers who never get reply and traceable for their application status since many years ago. Though, the credibility of the land use certificate (legally granted) is also questionable according to previous researches. Nevertheless, uncountable farmers become criminals by the law since 11 March 2019.

Recommendations

LIOH believes self-determination, federal land governance and the peoples’ rights to land are the only means for peace and social justice. Good management practices are already existed amongst communities and indigenous peoples. Ethnic land policies, customary land tenure systems and community-led & managed projects have been in place – and yet to be recognized. There is a need of federal land law that is processed democratically and safeguards the rights of land of smallholder farmers, small scale land users, ethnic peoples, landless peoples an IDPs. The transition to federal land law needs to freeze the implementation of existing land-related laws; to avoid land intensive mega projects (including agri-businesses); to ensure resolution of land conflicts; and to abolish the most dangerous VFVL.


A group of Chin peoples holding “Chin State doesn’t have VFV. Chin State only has ancestral land” and posing for a photo. | Photo credit: CLAN

Download the full report in English and Burmese.

VFV Campaign Report – March 2020 (Version-2). A5-sized Booklet is available in Bilingual (English/Burmese).