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:


CSO’s Statement on the effort for adopting the REDD+ National Strategy

[Unofficial English Translation]

CSO’s Statement on the effort for adopting the REDD+ National Strategy

3 May 2018

We know REDD+ National Strategy (draft) is going to be adopted in Myanmar. It is important to respect and recognize the self-determination and customary practices of each and every ethnicity. Moreover, any process related to natural resources under customary governance in ethnic areas needs free prior informed consent; and it is the fact that we believe.

We have noticed that the whole process of REDD+ is not sufficient in getting the consent of ethnic communities and public consultation especially the potentially affected communities and the effort to invite those communities in the process of consultation is not sufficient. In addition, there is no meaningful consultation with the local communities from the areas where this strategy would promote attraction for resource extractions.

The people from natural resource rich ethnic areas need sufficient amount of time to get & digest the complete information on REDD+ and to be gender sensitive & inclusive process. The people have the rights to information which is not only about the plan & the National Strategy but also the consequences of it. Moreover, the livelihoods of ethnic peoples from decades long arm conflicts areas are relying customarily on forest and natural resources. The marginalizing & exclusive processes are pushing those peoples towards unsecured & deteriorate lives.

REDD+ would create potential misunderstandings under existing peace building process; would become a cause for serious potential conflicts in mixed control areas (the Government and ethnic armed organizations).

Lastly, the strategy document is mentioning that shifting cultivation is the reason of deforestation; without concrete & clear evidence. That citation is not correct according to systematic studies in practice. The strategy is not discussing on industrial & infrastructure projects (especially transnational roads passing through the forests).

Civil society organizations demand the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation and the organizations supporting for development of Myanmar REDD+ National Strategy the following points.

  1. To respect the indigenous peoples’ rights to govern their natural resources; and to halt the process till supportive & protective measures are in place for customary land rights and the livelihoods of indigenous peoples
  2. To proceed wider and meaningful public consultations with communities and key local actors (including civil society organizations, smallholder farmers, people living in rural areas and conflict affected areas)
  3. To analyze conflict sensitivity for strategy development and to include in the current peace building & national reconciliation process.
  4. To ensure REDD+ strategy is for promoting human wellbeing and not for diminishing.

Contact

  1. Saw San Ngwe    (09-793958791)
  2. Saw Alex                (+66-967656615, 09-793595873)
  3. Ma Kamoon         (09-401601822)

LIOH Statement on the Farmland Law amendments

From 17-19 July 2017 in Yangon, we, the members of Land In Our Hands network- (90) representatives from (48) organizations of each and every State and Region — discussed and analyzed the 16 points Farmland law amendment bill published in The Mirror daily newspaper on 16th June 2017 for public consultation; and have issued the following statement:

1. In our consideration, the existing 2012 Farmland Law and the 2012 Vacant, Fallow, Virgin Land Law have been drafted without meaningful consultation or getting the (informed) opinion and consent of the farmers who are 70% of the population of the country. These laws also have neglected the customary land tenure of ethnic nationalities as well as the important cultural and historical values of land and intended to consider land as a commodity for buying and selling, resulting in further complication and worsening of the current land issues. For example, amending the provisions about seasonal crops can be interpreted as favoring project crops, so we consider these as dangerous amendments. In addition, this law to amend the current farmland law does not comply with and does go against the National Land Use Policy (2016), so we find the amendment law to be a backtracking amendment with the effect of moving backward and undermining the NLUP.

2. Since current laws have been developed without the consent of the farmers and communities, they do not provide protection for land tenure and social security of the farmers. This process of reforming the current laws in turn has been a rushed and driven one, so the plan to do a consultation for farmland law amendment poses the danger/risk to make current land disputes and issues even more complicated.

3. We strongly object to the fact that this farmland law amendment draft hearing session in the parliament will not gain any effective changes at all, since public-elected parliamentarians have not gone through any activities to listen to the voice, opinions and desires of the farmers and the communities.

4. Essentially, we earnestly demand that the timeframe for public hearing of farmland law amendment draft be modified so that the opinions, perspectives and independent recommendations of the farmers and communities can be incorporated into the farmland law amendment process.

5. We want to meet and discuss our findings and analysis with the parliamentarians prior to any discussion or hearing of farmland law amendment bill.

(Download the statement in Burmese or English)

Read . . . LIOH’s Position & Feedback on the Farmland Law & Amendments

A Call to The Republic of the Union of Myanmar to “Promote Land Ownership, Sustainable land Use and Family Farming” 

Land in our hands, food for everyone

A call to the Government, the Parliament and the Judiciary of the Union of Myanmar Republic to promote, protect, respect and fulfill the land tenure rights of small-scale farmers, fishers, forest dwellers, rural women, rural youth, and ethnic communities

October 16, 2014

Introduction: Who we are and why we are making this statement

  • We, the Land In Our Hands network, an initiative of small-scale farmers, community-based organizations and other civil society organisations from across Myanmar, greet and celebrate the “World Food Day”.
  • We, the small-scale farmers, fishers, forest dwellers, rural women, rural youth, and ethnic communities who are the backbone of the country’s food production, celebrate the marking of this day as the day when our crucial role in feeding families and communities throughout the Union is recognized, remembered and appreciated. The problematic
  • However, large-scale land deals, or land grabs by private or public corporate actors in the name of food security are on the rise in the Union of Myanmar Republic, in spite of under current process of democratic reform. Many of these deals are made under the pretext that lands are unused or underused but in most cases affected communities have shown otherwise. In fact, we small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and ethnic communities are being either displaced and physically dispossessed of, or losing our effective control over, our most important means of food production and subsistence: our land and water. This results in our inability to feed ourselves, our communities and our peoples, in addition to loss of jobs and negative environmental impacts and growing social unrest
  • Lack of or counterproductive regulatory and institutional frameworks result in the lack of state support to protect, respect and fulfill our land tenure rights, and also lack of support for small scale food farming and fishing, inspite of its important role in feeding the country and its peoples. Our main call and concrete demands In striving for durable peace and genuinely equitable and sustainable development in the country, and within the spirit of current democratic reforms, “Land In Our Hands” calls on the Government, the Congress and the Judiciary of the Union of Myanmar Republic to promote, protect, respect and fulfill the land tenure rights of small-scale farmers and fisherfolks, and particularly of rural women and ethnic communities. Specifically, we call the Union State to:
  1. Reform its national land policy and law so that they focus in promoting, protecting, respecting and fulfilling the tenure rights of small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and ethnic communities.
  2. Create a space and support effective participation of all representatives of small- scale farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and ethnic communities, in reforming the land policy and law
  3. Adopt the necessary and appropriate policy, legal, institutional and budgetary frameworks to recognize protect, respect and fulfill land tenure systems of indigenous ethnic peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems
  4. Ensure the rights of women to land and food are protected and fulfilled within the reformed land regulatory framework.
  5. Acknowledge in the land policy and law that land, fisheries, and forests have social, cultural, spiritual, economic, environmental and political meaning and value to indigenous ethnic peoples and other communities with customary land tenure systems and living on and off these farmlands, fisheries and forests.
  6. Promote, protect, respect and fulfill in the land policy and law the right of small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and ethnic communities to exercise self-governance of the land, sub-soil, fisheries, water and forests in their communities.
  7. Create a genuine legal land disputes solving mechanism and system that allows farmers, community members and all members of representatives of respective sectors to participate in solving natural resources and land-based disputes and conflicts in the whole country.
  8. Guarantee the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and consultation standards to ensure that the rights of small scale food producers and local family farming communities are protected
  9. Put a legal moratorium to all current mega development projects (including roads and hydro-power mega-dams) and land deals of any type (such as those related to mining, oil extraction, lodging and farming including contract farming arrangements) in ethnic areas until the land, water and forest tenure rights of small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, rural women and ethnic communities are appropriately promoted, protected, respected and fulfilled by the state in its land policy and law.
  10. And, last but not least, open up to our aspirations and voices in working toward a genuine peace and political solutions.

In sum, Land In Our Hands believes that unless all of the above mentions are urgently and appropriately addressed, Myanmar will not be able to find a durable peace and sustainable development for all the people and peoples of Myanmar. World Food Day is a good moment to reflect not only how much small scale farmers, fishers, rural women, rural youth and ethnic communities already contribute to the food security of Myanmar. It is also a great moment to reflect on how much more we have to contribute so that together we can be part of ensuring a positive transition to a better, more just and peaceful society.

Contacts
Si Thu: 09403706052 (Burmese)
Saw Alex: 09254207842 (Burmese and English)

(Download the statement in Burmese or English)