After a spout of optimism surrounding Myanmar’s so-called democratic transition in the post-2010 period, more recent work by CSOs and academics have emphasized the rampant and violent processes of land and ocean grabbing that this transition is facilitating. Drawing on a case from Northern Tanintharyi in the Southeast of the country, this article attempts to historicize contemporary accounts of these grabbing processes.
Shifting cultivation is a form of agro-forestry in which the cultivation of annual agricultural crops is combined with fallowing long enough for trees to grow before the plot is cultivated again. Why is shifting cultivation so controversial, and why do different stakeholders hold such divergent views - for some a valuable and honourable tradition but for others virtually a criminal activity?
Global pressure on land and natural resources is mounting, with mainstream narratives about climate change often intensifying pressure to replace so-called "inefficient" users of land, including small farmers and pastoralists with market-based dynamics and actors. This dynamic makes the pursuit of socially just land policy ever more important and urgent, while at the same time creating new challenges. The fundamental connections and tensions between agrarian and climate justice must be reckoned with, and movements on both sides must deepen their understanding.
There are serious concerns that government reforms will further exacerbate land tenure and food insecurity for the majority of the population in Myanmar who rely on their farm fields and forests for their livelihoods.
Top-down conservation projects, (Eco-)tourism, large-scale aquaculture and the expansion of industrial infrastructure are transforming Myanmar. Myanmar's coastal and inland aquatic resources are vast, but these evolving processes and dynamics raise important questions about who benefits from using these resources, who gets to access them and where control lies.
Amidst the many challenges Myanmar now faces, the threats to the environment are urgent – and they are growing more extreme. The situation is especially serious in the case of mega dams and hydropower where a host of projects are being promoted, without appropriate planning or public consultation, that are likely to cause irreversible harm to communities and natural ecosystems around the country. Not only are many of the projects located in nationality areas that are conflict zones, but the bulk of the energy produced will also be exported to neighbouring countries.
What is the role of land in establishing lasting future peace in Myanmar? The country is at a crossroads, and facing rapid land polarization. However, the inauguration of a new government chosen by a landslide in historic elections offers an unprecedented opportunity to change course in a positive direction. An approach that prioritizes poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups especially ethnic nationalities, women, and youth, could lay a foundation for peace.
The Irrawaddy - Several of Burma’s civil society organizations (CSOs) and ethnic community leaders have called for the government to develop a national land restitution policy for communities displaced by conflict.
The recent political and economic liberalization in Burma/Myanmar, while indicative of some positive steps toward democratisation, has increased foreign and domestic investments and geared the economy toward industrialisation and large-scale agriculture. Land governance procedures and implementation tend to favour the more powerful and well-connected, with little protection mechanism for the majority smallholding farmers in the country.
Jennifer Franco, Hannah Twomey, Khu Khu Ju, Pietje Vervest, Tom Kramer
28 January 2016
“Land is like our vein; it is vital for our living. After our land was confiscated, we don’t know what to do for our livelihood,” says a farmer from Kachin State in Myanmar. Today many inhabitants of rural communities in Myanmar live under threat of losing their lands in a battle for resources spurred by ethnic conflict, exploitative land laws, and powerful economic actors. The existence of a legal right to the land does not translate into that right being respected in practice, and people across the country are now working to protect their right to the land.
Jennifer Franco, Pietje Vervest, Tom Kramer, Alberto Alonso-Fradejas, Hannah Twomey
16 February 2015
Myanmar's National Land Use Policy promises to make profound changes to the current economic, social, and political-institutional landscape. This is an important and bold step, but its impact will depend on how it addresses the often “messy” details of actual land based social relations.
The release of the draft policy, part of a process towards enacting a new National Land Law and “harmonising” existing legislation, was greeted with objections and criticism from farmers’ organisations and ethnic minority groups throughout the country.