Govt Not Recognizing Scale of Land-Grabs in Burma: Lawmakers

A woman points to land which, according to the sign, is now owned by the Burma Army. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A woman points to land which, according to the sign, is now owned by the Burma Army. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The Burmese government has acknowledged just a fraction of more than 6,000 land-grab complaints filed with a parliamentary committee, lawmakers say, with a cabinet official telling Parliament this week that total complaints numbered less than 800.

Ohn Than, the deputy minister for agriculture and irrigation, told Parliament on Tuesday that there were only 745 cases of land rights abuses, and claimed that the government had already resolved some 423 of the complaints.

Members of a parliamentary land investigation committee are not satisfied with Ohn Than’s math, and are urging the deputy minister to explain in detail how the government intends to address the thousands of outstanding cases.

“We will have a meeting with all our committee members. We will discuss what we should do next. We should send a letter of objection to the government over this,” said Mi Myint Than, a lawmaker from the All Mon Region Democracy Party.

The parliamentary land investigation committee was formed in early 2012, and committee members have since been collecting data on the ground in all 14 of Burma’s states and divisions. Mi Myint Than, who is also a member of the committee, said Ohn Than was grossly underestimating the scale of the problem.

“We proposed over 6,435 letters to them for cases of land abuse, but they said they only received over 700 letters. So, how we can trust them?” he said. “Where are the rest of our proposed letters?”

Pe Than, an MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and another member of the land committee, said more specifics were needed on the 423 complaints purportedly solved as well.

“They just say they’ve solved cases already, but how? They should give details to us case by case, about when and where they solved them. We were not made aware of it [the land dispute resolutions]. Why not?” he asked.

“We’ve found that they [the government] does not want to give back land to the people because they know the land has a lot of value and will be good to sell in the future.”

The issue of land confiscations has made it to the floor of the legislature in the course of every session of Parliament since President Thein Sein came to power in March 2011, with more and more lawmakers feeling pressure from constituents and emboldened by the democratic reforms of the nominally civilian government.

The military, which ruled Burma with an iron fist for more than 50 years, has often been the target of land-grab complaints, prompting one unelected military MP to put the kibosh on discussion of the issue in August, during the last session of Parliament.

“Repeatedly saying that the Army confiscated land is creating a divide between the Army and the people,” Kyaw Oo Lwin complained at the time. But speaking before lawmakers on Tuesday, Ohn Than acknowledged the disproportionate culpability, reporting that 565 of the 745 complaint cases recognized by the government involved land confiscations by the military.

Countless cases of farmers and other landowners having property seized by the military, private companies or used for national projects over the last half-century have made the issue a priority for parliamentarians.

Ever since the 1963 Land Acquisition Act, which nationalized ownership of all land across the country, confiscations have be widespread for various reasons—including project construction, urban expansions, establishment of industrial zones and building army bases.

The issue, which governments across Southeast Asia have grappled with in recent years, poses a particularly acute threat to livelihoods in Burma, an agricultural country where the majority of people are farmers. No one has had the right to protest land seizures during the last five decades of military rule in Burma, but recent political reforms mean that many victims have begun to speak up in an effort to get confiscated land returned.

“There are persons from the government who are rich after selling land confiscated from the people. But the land-grab victims are still poor and they want their land back,” Pe Than said.

5 Responses to Govt Not Recognizing Scale of Land-Grabs in Burma: Lawmakers

  1. Ver Bad News – Even A Shame for the Government. It should step down for the negligence of important issue since Myanmar is still relying on Farm Industry.

  2. People in the floor of Hlutdaw are all responsible to answer the calls from the public. Tears had been shed and lives had been destroyed by soldiers for too long and too much. Hlutdaw members must stand firm to serve the citizens of Myanmar. Thein Sein is a foxy president. We are seeing his true color these days. He tried to charm us for a moment. He is for sure Than Shwe’s puppet.

  3. This actually shows that land ownership rights of every citizens in Burma is shaken now.Rural area will be hit the most.There is a loophole in land acquisition act.

  4. Maung Lu Aye ( Law ) R.A.S.U.1976

    ” The Thief shouted Man, Man ” ( Thakho ka lu hit ). Actually, the Real Landowners are the Burmese People , but the Military Idiots unfairly abuse the Power to Confiscate the Land. Everywhere in Burma, North, South, East , West , You can see that The Land are owned by the Military . How did they own them ? Who authorized the Ownership ? The Military had Nothing in Common , They were born with only that Their Mother given them Myay Yar Par/ Male Reproductive Organ for Urination . How come they Magically transformed People’s Land to Military Land . Tremendously, Amazing . You cannot do illegally confiscated the Land that you didn’t Own . Once 1974 , in Late UN General Secretary U Thant ‘s Burial Ground had a Dispute , Whether Govt Own or Individual Own and finally Late U Nyo was the Real Owner. What A Huge Shame that BSPP & Ne Win Did it . And you know , The Military felt No Shame .They are not Humans , but Monsters .
    Now, they are using the Same Tactics what the Burmese People Afraid . Confiscating the People’s lands without sufficient Compensation in the Name of Building Military bases, Project Construction, Urban Expansion & Establishment of Industrial Zones .Those are not reasonable or sufficient grounds to confiscate People Properties, but abusing the Power. People dare not to defy the Military who have Killing Machines .
    The Global Communities is watching every steps of the Quasi- Govt activities . And Which Govt can trust So-called Burma’s Govt who still abused his Own People and Asking or begging Loans or Assistants from East & West Govt without dignity. And before, Even allow DASSK’s Travel West to smooth the Diplomacy with Western Govt . Even US President Obama came to Burma Optimistically to Help , but Burma’s Govt was not acting as they said .
    Last not least, after all Every Human Being has six feets square & depth to bury when he/she died. How comes Buma’s Military confiscating & Saving a lot of Lands . No doubt that they are saving for their Military’s Dogs of War to bury . What a Great Pity !!!

  5. Was wondering that Land investigation committee have considered the recognition of rights and interest of local stakeholders? and did they include mandatory requirements for community consultations and hearings when the land is transferred to new uses and users. I doubt that.

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