Ensuring that investment in agriculture is done responsibly is vital for indigenous peoples, whose identities and cultural survival are inextricably linked to their lands and natural resources. Respecting this link is a fundamental principle in international law and jurisprudence, the recognition of which indigenous peoples have fought for and won and which reaffirms their right to determine the outcome of decision-making that affects them, rather than merely being involved in the process.
Three years ago, a quasi-civilian government took office in Burma, shedding the country’s pariah image and introducing democratic reforms that have won widespread praise. Yet events last week have raised doubts about the government’s reformist credentials and its commitment to a genuine democratic transition.
Human rights groups are concerned that Myanmar’s first census in 30 years will inflame ethnic tensions, further marginalise ethnic groups and be used as a tool for repression - especially against stateless Rohingya Muslims who are already denied basic human rights.
A briefing paper jointly published earlier this month by the Netherlands-based think tank groups has asserted that new ceasefires that have been signed since 2011 have further facilitated land grabbing in conflict-affected areas where large development projects in resource-rich ethnic regions have already taken place.
Positive political changes in Burma – including the release of 1,500 political prisoners – have unfolded rapidly since a flawed election saw ex-general Thein Sein come into power in 2011. But reform is “still at a tentative and early stage”.