The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) joins the international clamor demanding the repeal of the 2012 Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin (VFV) Lands Management Law in Burma

STATEMENT | 12 May 2019

Reference: Sylvia Mallari, PCFS Global Co-chairperson – secretariat@foodsov.org

Repeal the 2012 VFV Law in Burma!

Carry out a genuinely pro-people land reform policy!

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) joins the international clamor demanding the repeal of the 2012 Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin (VFV) Lands Management Law in Burma.

Since its inception, the VFV Land Management Law has been used to facilitate large-scale landgrabs throughout Burma. It denies the Burmese rural peoples, which compose 70% of the county’s population, their customary and communal land rights by declaring all lands without official land titles as “vacant, fallow, and virgin,” in order to herald these lands for use of domestic and foreign investment. This has long been disputed in the country, yet the government of Burma has opted to bolster the law to fast track the turnover of these lands to corporate landlords.

The law was amended in September 2018, requiring land tillers to register for land use permits with 30-year validity within six months. Deadline lapsed on March 11, and now more than 20 million hectares of land – a third of Burma’s total land area – have become subjected to private interests. About 75% of the “VFV” lands are territories of ethnic minorities. And considering that 95% of the VFV land residents surveyed a month before the deadline of registration had no knowledge of the law, majority of the people in these areas are subject to penalties up to 500,000 kyats (US $328) of fine and/or two years in jail for “trespassing” the lands they customarily owned. 

There are, in fact, reports of local authorities filing charges against villagers for violating the VFV Land Management Law, and more are expected to arise with the amendment in implementation. These cases are ongoing despite the confirmation of a member of the ruling party National League for Democracy (NLD) executive committee that the law is yet to be enforced until the bylaws are completed. PCFS condemns the criminalization of occupying the land that the Burmese people have cultivated for decades even prior the law’s existence. The Coalition denounces such harassment that aims the massive displacement of rural communities.

PCFS slams the Aung San Suu Kyi-led Burma government for pushing this law and its impracticable amendments – a far cry from its promise of protecting the land rights of farmers. In fact, the VFV law was made stricter. Four years since NLD broke the country’s military junta, the government has opted to abide with the trends on land policies perpetuated by international and development finance institutions that undermine food sovereignty and deny the land rights of farmers and Indigenous Peoples. No plan to amend the law or even the constitution will be able to resolve landlessness in Burma if the development framework is to “draw more investment.”

We condemn the Aung San Suu Kyi government for implementing the VFV law. We call its attention to carry out a genuinely pro-people land reform policy that can not only alleviate the widespread poverty especially in rural areas, but also address the country’s peace situation. Burma is riddled with armed conflict with ethnic minority groups that seek liberation and self-determination. Given this context and with the VFV Land Management Law in order, the refugees – who are already made vulnerable by the ongoing civil wars – have no more lands to return to.

PCFS is one with the rural peoples of Burma in calling for the repeal of the 2012 VFV Land Management Law. We call our members, networks, and fellow food sovereignty advocates to support the struggle of the rural peoples in Burma in defense of their ancestral lands and natural resources! ###

. . . Download the statement here . . .

PSLF’s Statement on VFVL

Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) / Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) released a statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) on 11th March 2019. The statement is claiming that the peoples living & making lives on the land are the original owner of the land thus no need to use the VFVL; reminding the peoples from Ta’ang area to claim back the lands grabbed previously; promising PSLF/TNLA would uphold land policy that protect the community from losing land and would take actions against those any individual or organization attempting to grab the land from its people.

PPST’s Statement from its Special Meeting 03-2019

The Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Signatory – Ethnic Armed Organizations (NCA-S EAO) released a statement from its special meeting (03/2019) happened during 5-7 March, 2019. The statement urged to review & amend the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) accordingly as it is opposing democracy norms and federal principles; and to stop enacting similar laws in the future.

Ethnic Literature & Cultural Development Organizations released statement on VFVL

Ethnic literature & cultural development organizations held a workshop reviewing the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) in Lashio of Shan State (Northern Shan). Together with Kachin, Ta-ang & Shan Literature & Culture Development Organizations, 62 participants representing 25 organizations participated in this workshop happened during March 5, 2019. A statement come out from that workshop demanding to cancel the VFVL, to recognize customary tenure practices and to ensure the land restitution for displaced persons by armed conflicts.

SSEYF’s Statement on VFVL

Shan State Ethnic Youth Federation Leading Committee (SSEYF) released statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) on March 5, 2019. The statement has raised 6 demands;

  • To abolish the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law
  • To recognize & respect ethnic customary land management systems & rights
  • To draft the law that guarantee management, decision making, ownership & interest of farmers and local peoples
  • To ensure the land laws making process is democratic & human rights based
  • To remove the charges completely from farmers those are currently facing on trial under VFVL
  • To give the lands back to original owners

CLAN Statement on VFVL

Chin Land Affairs Network (CLAN) released a statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFVL) after its executive members’ meeting and land law review workshop happened during 12-13 of February, 2019.

The statement is available in Burmese and has raised 4 points:

  • Chin people are original owners of all land & related resources thus this status must not be altered without the consent of Chin peoples
  • VFVL makes more conflicts to Chin peoples’ livelihoods, live makings, histories & cultures and is also undermining federal system, thus to be abolished.
  • VFVL facilitates land grabbing from ethnic peoples and specifies the original owner of the land as criminals, thus to stop the land grabbing & large-scale projects under VFV label.
  • Denounce the quote of U Shwe Htee Yo, Minister for Road & Transport, saying there’s no ancestral land in Chin State; because there are only ancestral land handed over generations in Chin State.

Mon Communities’ Statement on VFVL

New Mon State Party and Mon peoples released a statement after land law review workshop happened during 25-26 December, 2018. The statement highlights the VFVL undermines Mon customary land tenure practices; is not aligned with human rights norms, democracy norms & federal norms; is not supporting current peace process; and thus to be abolished.

Mon Statement on VFV (1)
Mon Statement on VFV (2)

Civil Society Organizations’ Open Letter to LIFT for its call for proposal “REAL DEV”

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

24 December 2018

Land in Our Hands (LIOH) and Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability (MATA) jointly send the open letter to LIFT regarding its recently launched call for proposal “REAL DEV Programme”; today in 24 December 2018.

On 14 December 2018, LIFT (Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund) has launched a REAL DEV programme that invites partner agencies to work with the Government on land reclamation and reallocation in Magway, to develop a replicable approach and framework for reallocating State land reclaimed from concessionary holders to the rural poor, landless, and others; according to its website and facebook page.

Since the government adopted the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFV law) in 2012, peoples from ethnic areas declared that they don’t have vacant, fallow & virgin land but the ancestral lands they have been living, using & managing for centuries. And many civil society organizations asked the government to abolish the VFV law. Although NLD government initiated to amend this law in 2017, it becomes worse – criminalizing the peoples defending their lands and setting the time for registering the lands. Land in Our Hands is continuously supporting for federal land government and customary practices; thus calling to abolish the VFV law. During May, LIOH released a statement at national level reckoning the voices from different states & regions. That workshop and statement is representing over 1,600 peoples and over 400 civil society organizations across the country.

Despite these continuous public oppositions, the Government adopted the amendments to VFV in September 2018. Thus, LIOH launched the campaign against VFV law and also released a joint statement. The statement is endorsed by 346 local organizations. The international community is also supporting the movement of LIOH and issued the concern letter recently.

At this fragile moment, LIFT called proposals for its programme above-mentioned. Although LIFT says “LIFT’s programme is relevant and responsible – perhaps even more so at this time than before”, it is lacking the political sensitivity around land rights and peace building process as wider impacts. In this regards, LIOH & MATA prepared and sent an open letter to LIFT calling to suspend the call for proposals and reassess its operations in Myanmar in accordance with its 12 conflict sensitivity principles.

Open letter to LIFT: (English) (Burmese)

International Community Issued Statement of Concern on VFV

In December 2018, international community issued the statement of concern to express solidarity with grassroots campaign against VFV in Myanmar and called for petition.

Please visit the official petition site or see the letter here.