Disputed Territory: Mon Farmers' Fight Against Unjust Land Acquisition and Barriers to Their Progress

TitleDisputed Territory: Mon Farmers' Fight Against Unjust Land Acquisition and Barriers to Their Progress
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2013
Key themesAccessToJustice, Dispossession-grabbing

INTRODUCTION: Over the years HURFOM has produced a number of accounts highlighting the hardships faced by Mon farmers who became victims of land confiscation or unjust land acquisition.1 In this report HURFOM follows-up on previously documented abuses and concentrates on an emerging new trend: farmers’ active and collective pursuits for rights to their land. Disputed Territory aims to elaborate on the activities of and express solidarity with farmers who are resolutely, and in some cases for the first time, seeking justice regarding their land. To exhibit current challenges and bring into focus some of the key obstacles in the Mon context, this report uses case studies of appeals over past military land confiscations in Ye Township and on-going transgressions by various investors in Kyaikmayaw Township. Where barriers to justice exist, HURFOM recommends effective and immediate solutions. HURFOM contends that farmers’ newly voiced demands present an important opportunity for President Thein Sein’s government. Inherent in an environment of growing activism is the chance to meet appeals with justice, thereby demonstrating to domestic and international critics that the administration is committed to a clear break with the abuses of past military regimes. Violations of farmers’ rights need to be publicly condemned and owners of wrongfully seized land must have property restored or be given fair compensation. There is an urgent need for the establishment of a credible legal framework to prevent dispossession and violated rights from continuing to be hallmarks of agrarian life under this government’s nominally civilian rule. The argument presented herein is simple. Since 2011 farmers have been actively pursuing their rights to land, yet to date little progress has been made. Few past victims of unjust land acquisition have had land returned, misconduct by investors in land acquisition continues, and secure land rights remain virtually absent from Burmese law. Given the focus on farmers’ struggle for their rights, this report pays considerable attention to the legal framework in which past and on-going land disputes have taken place. Inadequate legislation and public lack of awareness of existing legal rights are highlighted as key reasons why Mon farmers do not possess rights to their land in 2013. In a nation emerging from conflict and actively pursuing economic development, farmers are in desperate need of robust, legally enshrined protection of their land rights. With government land surveys characterised by a lack of transparency and enduring bias, the precise number of acres of land unjustly acquired from Mon farmers over the years remains nearly impossible for an organisation of HURFOM’s capacity to confirm. However, information gathered for this report suggests that it stretches to tens of thousands of acres. HURFOM calls on all persons in positions of authority to elevate the voices and champion the rights of farmers who for generations have crafted Burma’s unique and prolific landscape.


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