Rakhine State, historically known as Arakan, represents the post-colonial failures of Myanmar in microcosm: ethnic conflict, political impasse, militarisation, economic neglect and the marginalisation of local peoples. During the past decade, many of these challenges have gathered a new intensity, accentuating a Buddhist-Muslim divide and resulting in one of the greatest refugee crises in the modern world. A land of undoubted human and natural resource potential, Rakhine State has become one of the poorest territories in the country today.
As the government meets to design a “roadmap” for developing the new national land law, TNI looks at how the situation has changed since the development of the National Land Use policy a few years ago and reflects on the issues at stake for millions of people across the country with rights to land in the current context.
This Primer promotes a deeper understanding and appreciation of Myanmar's customary tenure systems, which are under threat from the government's new land policies. It looks at the nature and origin of traditional land and resource use customs and the functions these fulfill in Myanmar's rural communities.
A Memorandum of Understanding to establish the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) was signed by the governments of Myanmar and China in September 2018. The CMEC forms part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a 21st century reimagining of the ancient Silk Road, the network of land and sea trade routes that once linked Imperial China with markets in the west.
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.
Kayah State, historically known as “Karenni State”, is an example of the reform dilemmas that the ethnic nationality peoples in Myanmar face today. Although the country’s smallest state, it reflects many of the challenges in peace-building and socio-political transition that need resolution in Myanmar at large: political impasse, a multiplicity of conflict actors, contested natural resources, land grabbing, humanitarian suffering, and divided communities seeking to rebuild after more than six decades of civil war.
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.
How is the peace process in Myanmar going? What progress has been made toward reform? After decades under military rule, the 21st Century Panglong Conference has been welcomed as the most encouraging recent initiative to address humanitarian suffering and national instability. It prioritises ethnic peace and political reform at a moment of opportunity for national reconciliation. However, as ethnic conflict and refugee displacement continue worrying failings have started to appear, raising many warnings from the country’s troubled history.
For people affected by displacement, land is much more than just an economic asset. Being able to return to one’s original place is a deeply felt aspiration about restoring the social relations that constitute a person’s identity. The long-standing displacement of people, land-grabbing and non-existence of rights to land in many parts of the country mean that land reform and land restitution must be a central issue in any peace settlement. What happens today with the land is inextricably tied to the country’s future prospects for peace and democracy.