New Bodies Formed on Land Disputes, Other Pressing Matters

By The Irrawaddy 9 May 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s President Htin Kyaw has formed nine new committees and commissions, including a National Planning Commission, over which he will preside, and a committee to oversee the country’s protracted land disputes, chaired by the ethnic Chin Vice President Henry Van Thio.

According to a statement from the President’s Office, the National Planning Commission was formed on Thursday to scrutinize state projects and joint ventures with the private sector, assessing project feasibility, implementation and the prevention of budgetary waste. It can also make suggestions and issue approvals or rejections on projects proposed by ministries and local governments.

Chaired by the president, the commission includes Burma’s two vice presidents, all 20 Union-level ministers, the attorney-general, accountant-general, and the chief ministers of all 14 states and divisions.

Among the new bodies, the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government also formed a Central Review Committee on Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands on Thursday to address Burma’s complex legacy of land confiscation and the dispossession of impoverished farmers. It will be chaired by Van Thio, one of Burma’s two vice presidents. He is an NLD member who was elected to the national Parliament last November prior to taking the cabinet post earlier this year.

The committee is tasked with monitoring state and divisional governments’ handling of land disputes, and enabling the return of land to dispossessed farmers from government ministries, state-owned enterprises and private companies. The President’s Office announcement urged that further land acquisition be postponed until disputes are settled in accordance with the law, noting that the issue of land rights was a priority for the new government.

The committee’s two vice chairmen are the ministers of Home Affairs and of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation. Its members are drawn also from the ministries of Defense, Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Industry, and Construction, and include the chief ministers of all states and divisions and the chair of the Naypyidaw Council.

The other newly formed bodies include a National Search and Rescue Committee, a Statistics Committee, a Construction Scrutiny Committee, a Privatization Commission, and a State and Divisional Planning Commission.

All are couched within the executive branch, distinct from existing parliamentary committees with similar portfolios.