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)

Civil Societies’ statement on VFV law is now available in 6 languages

In response to the recently adopted the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management law  (VFV law) – despite the continuous public opposition, the civil society organizations in Myanmar released a joint statement as part of larger public campaign. The statement called to abolish the VFV law, to respect customary land management practices and to ensure the process of law making for federal land law with full & meaningful participation. The statement was endorsed by 346 local organizations (within 2 day).

The Statement is now available in 6 languages:

Soon after the statement was released on 16 November 2018, the United Nationalities Alliance (ethnic political party) & its sister organizations, the Karen National Union (Taungngu District), internally displaced persons from Kachin & Northern Shan State, Karenni Land Forum and Kayan Organizations have issued similar statements.


Kayan Statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law

Kayan New Generation Youth (KNGY) together with Kayan National Party (KNP), Kayan Women Organization (KyWO) and Kayan Literature & Culture Central Committee (KLCC) issued a joint statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law (VFV Law). The statement stressed out the VFV law is not protecting and even suppressing the cultural value, characteristics and ownership of ancestral land practices.

Karenni Land Forum released a statement

Karenni Land Forum released a statement on December 5, 2018 highlighting there is no vacant, fallow & virgin land in Karenni (Kayah) State; denouncing the effort to grab the land & impose the Karenni peoples as criminals; and calling to come up a true Federal Land Law & halting the efforts forcing to implement the existing laws before that.

KNU (Taungngoo District) Released the Statement from 6th Assembly

6th Assembly of the KNU released the statement and it mentioned the existing land-related laws especially the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law, are imposing local communities as criminals and affecting the peace making process. (Download the statement in Burmese Language)

Statement on VFV law and related announcement

Statement available in these languages: Burmese, English, Thai, Chinese, French & Spanish


Civil Society Organizations’ Statement on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management 2018 and related announcement

16 November 2018

Despite continuing & serious public opposition to the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law and the amendments, it was passed on 11 September 2018. A short time later on 30 September 2018 the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Central Committee issued a letter notifying the public that the persons and organizations currently using the vacant, fallow & virgin land without permission from the Central Committee must register the land.

Section 22(b) of the law requires users to register the land in accordance with specifications within 6 months after the enactment of the law. Moreover, according to section 27(a), anyone using the vacant, fallow & virgin land without permission of central committee shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or with fine not exceeding Kyat five lakhs or with both; as they violate the section 22(b-iii).

Our standpoint on the newly amended law and related announcement is the following:

Continue reading “Statement on VFV law and related announcement”

Sub-national & National Workshops on Reviewing Existing Land Laws (2018)

. . . a national workshop providing a space for land rights organizations across the country bringing the voices related to the implications of the existing land laws and local peoples’ desires . . .

The Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar enacted Vacant, Fallow, & Virgin Land Management Law (VFV law) in 2012 under the President U Thein Sein and changing the way land is regulated. For example, the Farmland Law allowed land to be bought, sold and transferred on a land market with land use certificates. However, large numbers of people actually tilling the land either did not have and/or experienced great and often overwhelming difficulties in trying to obtain the required documents. Then, based on the VFV law, all land not formally registered with the government could now be reallocated to domestic and foreign investors. Neither law takes into account the land rights of ethnic minorities. Both fail to recognize customary and communal tenure systems in land, water, fisheries and forests. As a result, large numbers of farmers in the country, including most upland ethnic communities, have suddenly become ‘squatters’ under this law. When National Land Use Policy (NLUP 2016) came out with a lot of efforts & inputs from LIOH, the VFV itself becomes contradictory and need to be abolished. Since then, LIOH stands to say “NO” to VFV and doesn’t recognize its existence.

During 2017, the new Government was trying to modify & enforce the farmland law and VFV law with desires to have only very few amendments. Besides, 2017 land acquisition act (draft) came out and the following problematic issues are found: lack of recognition of the land rights, designation of the farmers as criminals,creation of complicated and opaque land management processes, lack of transparency and accountability, encouragement of corruption, promotion of government organizations’ land control and manipulation, favoritism for private investors, lack of independent monitoring on implementation of land management, selling/renting/buying land as a commodity and lack of absolute recognition of customary land tenure. In the draft bill of land acquisition act there is too much influence and control of Ministry of Home Affairs on land management and there is very little or almost no management role for the public Government elected by the people of Myanmar.

The draft new bills/amendment bills related to land laws fails to meet the democratic standards (that require public consultation for enacting laws standards) and international human right standards. Moreover, they are not based on policy/framework essential in drafting a law.

Currently, the Parliament will be having discussions on these land laws and the Government will be enforcing the law near future. Once these law has been enforced, the farmers will be the primary victims – especially from the rural areas and ethnic communities. LIOH doesn’t recognize the existence of this VFV law though do believe being silent is not an answer particularly in this situation. Therefore, this falls under urgency to make collective voice for saying “NO” to VFV law, rewriting new farmland law and never ever to adopt draft bill of 2017 Land Acquisition Act which are all not consistent with the current situation of Myanmar.

In these regards, LIOH hosted a national workshop during 22-23 May 2018 providing a space for land rights organizations across the country bringing the voices from different states & regions – related to the implications of the existing land laws and local peoples’ desires. During the workshop, 91 participants were participating and they are representing over 400 organizations around the country. They have done sub-national workshops analyzing the existing land-related laws & voicing out their desires.

Sub-national & National workshops were done in the following areas: