Community Forest Forum released a Statement (July 2019)

The First Community Forest Forum was held in Hpa-an District, Karen State, Kawthoolei from July 1 to 3, 2019; contributing to forest conservation as well as the global warming and climate change solution. There were 244 participants in total including indigenous peoples, representatives from civil society organizations, Kawthoolei Forest Department (Central, District and Township levels) and representatives of community forest committees.

During 2011 to 2019, 151 community forests have been established in 7 Districts within Kawthoolei; altogether 244,588.03 acres in total area. The forum set out 18 missions regarding community forest and also urged the government to halt the one-sided projects and activities (such as amending land related laws, specifying national park and expanding the conservation areas) those undermine the community practices and affect the livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

The Statement is available in Burmese and Karen.

“Kaw” Customary Land Seminar Statement “Our Customary Land, Our Life and Our Future”

“Kaw” Customary Land Seminar Statement
“Our Customary Land, Our Life and Our Future”

May 30, 2019

Group photo of participants in “Kaw” (customary) Land Seminar; taken on 30 May 2019

The “Kaw” Customary Land Seminar, held from May 29th to 30th, 2019, at Lay Wah, in the Karen National Union (KNU) administrated area of Hpa-an District was attended by 519 representatives from 56 organizations, including: local community and civil society representatives, donors, INGOs, political parties, and leaders of the KNU. The seminar discussed the problems and challenges facing “Kaw” customary land systems and the ways in which they can be strengthened and promoted, collaborating with other stakeholders.

“Kaw” are Karen customary land management systems. This is land which is collectively used, managed, conserved and governed. These practices are based on the conservation of land, forest, water, and other natural resources, and emerge from a combination of traditional value systems and traditional/customary law. Therefore, these practices are inherently linked to the preservation of Karen culture and beliefs and local biodiversity and ecosystems protection.

Therefore, the collective preservation of land, forest, water, natural resources and the environment inherently requires the preservation and maintenance of Karen “Kaw” management systems. We must have well-developed and well-maintained “Kaw” management systems which address the challenges of the current political situation. As a result of this, the KNU land and forest policies include a full recognition of “Kaw” land management systems, and have set up and begun implementing policies.

Importantly, the “Kaw” (Customary) management systems have never been influenced by any external authorities; they are a deeply entwined set of land management practices, strong local administrative justice mechanisms and traditional beliefs which holistically come together. These beliefs and practices are representative of a comprehensive traditional relationship to land, from which has emerged a strong set of land management and governance practices which we call “Kaw”.

According to research conducted between 2015 and 2018, it was found that there are 198 “Kaw” customary land systems in Kawthoolei. Community-based research focused on three “Kaw” found that these customary land management systems successfully provided land protection and sustainable livelihoods, and they are still very much relevant and applicable to the current situation.

The current Myanmar government’s Vacant, Fallow and Virgin (VFV) Land Management Law and other land laws fundamentally undermine the authority of Karen “Kaw” customary land systems. These systems, in contrast with Myanmar government land laws, allow for collective participation in political decision-making. Suppressing such customary systems hinders the peace building process, preventing the establishment of federalism. The Myanmar government’s land laws therefore must be abolished and accordingly rewritten. In addition, we strongly oppose the current survey law (draft) which will hinder the peace building process while posing threats to the maintenance of “Kaw” Customary land systems.

Therefore, in order to have strong and effective realization of “Kaw” customary land governance systems, as independently allow to be governed and in line with the KNU’s land and forest policies, we make a firm commitment to continue to strengthen and implement the “Kaw” customary land governance systems within our administrative territories.

Contact:

  • P’dohMahn Ba Tun – +66 613450533
  • P’doh Nay ThaBlay – +66 973503410
  • Saw Thuebee – +95 9785175874

Download the statement in English or Burmese.

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)