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;
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.
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.
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.
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.