LIOH’s Statement on Nationwide Movement Calling to Abolish Myitsone Dam Project

All of the large dam projects built in Myanmar have had severe and negative impacts on peoples’ lives, as a growing body of evidence clearly shows. We, Land in Our Hands (LIOH) network, oppose efforts to construct large dam projects, and call for the far-reaching damage to peoples’ lives caused by existing and under construction projects to be fully addressed.

The Ayeyarwaddy River is a major artery of Myanmar’s cultural heritage. We oppose any acts that attempt to place a financial value on the Ayeyarwaddy River, the Myitsone and the larger river basin, whether it is calculated in kyat, dollars, euros or yuan. The Ayeyarwaddy is not for sale!

Plans and actions which support the conversion of the Ayeyarwaddy River and the Myitsone into electric megawatts are insulting to ethnic peoples residing in these areas, and continues to drive the country further from national reconciliation and sustainable peace.

We clearly warn that the five-year government does not have the authority to decide the future of societies living at the Myitsone or along the Ayeyarwaddy River and its basin.

We demand that the current government completely abolish the Myitsone Dam project, and the other 6 dams in the cascade, within its remaining 2-years term.

We denounce the Myitsone project proponents, including the Chinese Government and its State Owned Enterprises, for their attempts to force the project forward in a clear sign of disregard for the will of the people of Myanmar. We demand the immediate abolishment of Myitsone Dam project and the full restitution of land and livelihoods to those who have already suffered displacement and dispossession.

(Download statement in English or Burmese)

LIOH Statement regarding the World Bank’s 2019 conference on Land and Poverty

LIOH Statement regarding the World Bank’s 2019 conference on Land and Poverty

25 March 2019

From the 25-29 the World Bank is hosting its annual conference on “Land and Poverty Conference 2019”.  This conference is pitched as a platform for experts to gather and present on solutions to the world’s land issues, including those afflicting Myanmar’s people today.

We, the Land in Our Hands, [a multi-ethnic national network in partnership with civil society and community based organizations across Myanmar], firmly believes that the World bank is the wrong institution to be leading communities out of land related poverty at a global scale, and has a major conflict of interests as the Bank has arguably exacerbated land related inequality through its investments and structural adjustment programs.

Myanmar is facing a serious land crisis that has been built on decades of successive military government’s systematic and widespread land expropriations from the country’s people. The current semi-civilian government, led by the NLD, has followed in the footsteps of previous authoritarian dictatorships in attempting to corner land as an investment opportunity while ignoring the history of land expropriations and how they continue to fan the flames of inequality, conflict and poverty. 

Sadly, the NLD-led government’s land reforms are deepening the existing land tenure insecurities of millions of farmers across the country, and foreclosing opportunities for genuine federal democratic reforms and lasting peace.

The recently amended Vacant Fallow Virgin Land Management Law effectively designates 45 million acres of land in Myanmar as “untitled” or vacant land, leaving it open for investment – 82 per cent of this land lies in non-Bamar ethnic States. There is no such thing as vacant land in Myanmar, and by ignoring the diversity of existing land tenure systems practiced by local farming communities, this law will transform these farmers into landless criminals, deprive them of their livelihoods and strip them of their cultural heritage and identity. In response to this situation, 346 CSOs across Myanmar (https://lioh.org/?p=46); the ethnic political parties (https://lioh.org/?p=53) and war affected displaced community from Kachin (https://lioh.org/?p=61) issued statements calling on the Myanmar government to repeal the VFVL law.

Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International financial institutions, rush in to profit before any meaningful or far-reaching political and economic reforms have taken root in Myanmar. The World Bank’s engagement in the Myanmar land issue will lead to an acceleration of land grabbing and compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources; and further fuel conflict and rights violations including displacement in Myanmar.

Contact

https://lioh.org, landsinourhands@gmail.com, +95-9785175874

Download (English) (Myanmar)

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

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)

KNU (HQ) Statement on VFVL

Statement of KNU’s Position regarding Land laws of the Myanmar Government

The Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar has ratified and signed the amendment of The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law, passed by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No (24) on 11 September 2018. Other laws regarding land have also been discussed on that day. Regarding the laws mentioned above, the central land committee of the Karen National Union states its positions and concerns as follows:

  1. The Karen National Union has been managing and administering land at the Central, District and Township Levels according to the policy that was formulated and implemented in line with international standards of land, forest, social and human rights norms. The Karen National Union policy also reflects democratic and federal standards, protection of the lands of indigenous people and their rights. Moreover, the positions and concerns of the general Karen People regarding lands was collected and well-documented as a result of national political dialogue. Thus, all those positions and concerns must be included in political discussions and negotiations.
  2. The recent amendment of the “The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law” merely concentrates on the centralist systems that has been formulated by the governments of the Myanmar from time to time. It shows no concerns to the rights of indigenous people or human rights norms, and it does not reflect the democratic and federal principles. Moreover, it contains huge contradictions to the positions and concerns of the Karen People as a whole and to the land policy of Karen National Union. It discourages peace building, trust building and the formation of the future Federal Union.
  3. The amendment of the “The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law” is violating the agreements and contracts between Karen National Union and Government as follows: articles 9, 10, and 11 of the preliminary ceasefire agreements between the Government and the Karen National Union on 6 April 2012. Moreover, it violates the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which was signed by Government, Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Organizations, especially article 9 of Chapter Three on the Protection of Civilians and article 25(a-1) of Chapter Six.
  4. We call for the elimination of the “The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law” that can produce disputes and conflicts. We encourage the review, amendment, elimination, and rewrite of other land laws that do not comply with the principles of democracy and federal standards. The enactment of controversial land laws could contradict the formation of the Democratic and Federal Union in accordance with the NCA. Thus, we encourage the legislative bodies to enact the law reflecting the NCA that encourages the formation of the Democratic and Federal Union.

In attempting the sustainable peace process in line with the political goals, for the well-being of the whole Karen population, the Karen National Union issues this statement on behalf of the Karen People whose interests suffered and were damaged. The Karen National Union will firmly stand and implement the policy and governance structure to comply with the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

Contacts:

  • P’doh Mahn Ba Htoon (+66 (0) 61 345 0533)
  • P’doh Saw Nay Thablay (+66 (0) 86 911 0413)
  • Saw Thoo Kapee (+66 (0) 06 765 6615)

Download the Statement

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.