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:

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