Redressing land confiscation issues in Myanmar

President Message
In the message of greetings sent by President U Win Myint on the occasion of the Peasants Day Celebrations on 02 March 2020, he pointed out in general that all the peasants who are working in the agricultural and livestock sector, play a vital role in the nation’s economy as they are contributing to the daily food requirements of the people as well as income derived from exports.
President U Win Myint continued that we have also undertaken the following tasks: – – such as that of working for peasants to get back their confiscated farmlands; for farmlands that could not be returned to make sure that compensation is given; allowing farmers on small plots and local ethnic people to work on vacant, fallow and virgin land after review; amending the farmland law; ensuring that peasants are given permission to work on farmlands officially; working to uplift the socio-economic life of peasants by rural development; creating other means of generating incomes apart from agricultural work for peasants and their families.
The writer of this article, based on the President’s message as well as various coordination meetings chaired by the Vice President, would like to review and discuss in details on positive aspects of redressing land confiscation issues in Myanmar.

Local farmland committees formed to handle land disputes
In a bid to deal with the massive and still mounting backlog of land grab claims, local-level committees are being formed across Myanmar in order to analyze and resolve the land disputes.
The then President U Htin Kyaw established the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands in May 2016, (Vide Union of Myanmar President Office order letter number 14/2016 issued on 5th May 2016.), and appointed Vice President Henry Van Thio as chairman.

National Land Use Policy (NLUP) Forum
Speech of Vice President U Henry Van Thio at the National Land Use Policy Forum held on 6 October 2018 gave a detailed depiction of how the nation handles its land resources. In order to hear and decide land disputes through the use of impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms across the whole country, the following are carried out.

Land Dispute Resolution and Appeal
Part (VI) of the National Land Use Policy, which was enacted only in January 2016, dealt with the Land Dispute Resolution and Appeal through article (41) to (46).
Article 41. In order to hear and decide land disputes through the use of impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms across the whole country, the following shall be defined:
(a) Allowing representatives from local farmer organizations to participate at every level in order to protect and develop farmers’ benefits;
(b) Allowing local farmers organizations to resolve land disputes arising between their members, using local customary dispute resolution mechanisms, if they choose to do so;
(c) Allowing the rights to make a complaint, defend oneself or with representation, and appeal for land disputes;
(d) Allowing civil society to provide legal aid and acquire necessary information for use in land disputes;
(e) Resolving land disputes in public and use appropriate local language and translation as necessary;
(f) Resolving land disputes transparently, fairly and free from corruption.
Article 42. The following shall be carried out when resolving land disputes:
(a) Arranging the establishment of special courts that will hear special cases related to land law with specially trained judges and law officers if necessary;
(b) Establishing independent monitoring bodies with participation of all stakeholders and appointing monitors that have no direct interest, to observe settlement of land disputes;
(c) Determining the processes to settle land disputes between businessmen and farmers, or between farmers, through independent arbitration;
(d) Establishing an independent tripartite arbitration process to settle land disputes, comprised of Government departments, organizations, farmers and private sector;
(e) Establishing accurate and clear procedural processes in relevant departments and organizations to improve easy access to, and use of, independent arbitration tribunals, courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms by farmers and other land users in accordance with existing laws.
Article 43. In conducting appeals related to land, assistance from individuals and civil society with ability to support systematically shall be allowed.

Central Committee for Confiscated Farmlands holds meeting
On 30 August 2017, the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands held a meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw.
The Vice President said the Central Committee and the Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw met on 31 July 2017 and discussed the policies and framework of the Central Committee. The central committee said they need to place importance on direct complaints signed by victims of confiscated lands and review complaints sent by representatives of the victims.
Central Committee conducted meetings with state and regional Hluttaw representatives and ministry officials to solve complaints of the confiscated lands. So far the Central Committee has solved cases from Mandalay and Bago regions, Kachin, Kayah, Chin and Shan states.

5th Coordination Meeting
On 4 April 2018, the fifth coordination meeting (1/2018) of the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands was held in the assembly hall of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw.
Chairman of the committee delivered an address. Of these, the central committee found that only 669 cases were resolved and more emphasis needs to be placed on resolving the remaining 5,651 cases.

President’s directive
Farmers should have their farmland returned to them or given proper compensation for land that cannot be given back to them, President U Win Myint said on 27 June 2018 in his speech at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw.
The President said confiscated land must be swiftly returned to their rightful owners and squatters must be dealt with in accordance with the law. Participants also gave presentations about confiscated farmland returned and compensation given, response to appeals for compensation, and other field procedures.
This was followed by the central committee’s joint secretary and the state and region chief ministers explaining their processes, operations, and progress regarding confiscated land in their administrative areas.
Next, union ministers and the Union Attorney General, who are all members of the central committee, presented and discussed their respective ministry’s available support and the issues they were facing.
The Vice President then replied to the presentations and explanations, gave guidance and instructions where necessary, and then concluded the meeting with a closing speech.

7th Coordination Meeting
Chairman of the Central Committee addressed the 7th coordination meeting 1/2019 of the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands held at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation meeting hall in Nay Pyi Taw 27 February 2019 afternoon.
The Vice President said the meeting was the central committee’s seventh coordination meeting. The Chairman then gave comments and advice to ensure coordination tasks which were based on the explanations and discussions.
Vice President urges vigilance when returning confiscated lands.
In fact, Myanmar has re-established the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands vide order number 21/2019 of the President Office on 5 February 2019, to address complaints about land confiscation and proper transfer of lands to the original owners.
The Central Committee held a coordination meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation in Nay Pyi Taw on 10 July 2019.
Vice President U Henry Van Thio, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Central Committee, made an opening speech.
In his speech, the Vice President said the members of central committee have met eight times and adopted 52 policies up to the ground level to be able to reward the confiscated farmlands and other lands in line with the existing laws.

The Central Committee was expanded with the forming of its branches for Nay Pyi Taw and other Regions/States on 26 April 2019. In doing so, each Pyithu Hluttaw MP and Amyotha Hluttaw MP took part in the respective district and township committees.
The Vice President also advised all the committees to address the complaints on land seizures, while the government ministries are releasing the confiscated lands to the original owners and the transfer of these lands to other ministries for reserved land.
He also suggested the return of lands to the original owners without delay, and the members of Central Committee are to review the settlement mechanisms for land disputes to avoid the losses of owners.
He also offered to submit special reports on informing the requirement of urgent settlements to the relevant committees, and to follow instructions and guidelines from the Union government to the committees.
The Vice President then called for opening committee offices at the local levels with enough human resource capacity and organizing workshops and training programs.
Then, the members of Central Committee explained their reviewing on the cases of land confiscation.
The meeting was concluded with the coordination of Vice President U Henry Van Thio in the discussions.

Conclusion
Before making the conclusion, we need to look the world perspectives as well as regional standpoints.
Why does land grabbing happen?
Generally, the “Land Grabbing” occurs when local communities and individuals lose access to land that they previously used, resulted with the threatening of their livelihoods. These lands are being acquired such as those by outside private investors, companies, governments, and national elites.
Looking into the current situation of land grabbing issues in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, we are redressing through the Central Committee for Scrutinizing and Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands, as well as the relevant State/Region Committees. The “Modus Operandi”, a particular way or method of doing something, procedure and approach has covered nearly all common actions mentioned in the Asian regional perspectives.
As always, starting from the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s leaders never ever neglect the issues of land matters in the country at the relevant meetings and as well as during their tours to the states and regions.
Therefore, the writer of this article strongly and steadfastly believes that the “Redressing land confiscation issues in Myanmar” would surely succeed progressively in the years ahead.

References – – –
1. The Global New Light of Myanmar, Volume VI, Number 320, Monday, 02 March 2020.
2. The Global New Light of Myanmar, 27 February 2019
3. President Office Notification 14/2016 of 5 May 2016; https://www.president-office.gov.mm/?q=briefing-room/news/2016/05/09/id-10280
4. President Office website; President pledges to return confiscated farmland to farmers; Submitted by cwmpo2 on Wed, 06/27/2018 – 17:24
5. Global New Light of Myanmar , Date: 07 November 2019, Vice President urges vigilance when returning confiscated lands
6. MOI Web Portal
7. National Land Use Policy (NLUP); extwprlegs1.fao.org › docs › pdf › mya152783

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