“Nothing for Our Land”: Impact of Land Confiscation on Farmers in Myanmar

Title“Nothing for Our Land”: Impact of Land Confiscation on Farmers in Myanmar
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsHuman_Rights_Watch _
Paginationi-v, 1-34
Key themesAccessToJustice, Dispossession-grabbing, Policy-law

ABSTRACTED FROM SUMMARY: Disputes over land remain one of the central challenges in Myanmar’s evolving reform process. Land confiscations and forced evictions were a major feature of decades of military rule and internal armed conflict. Small farmers bore the brunt as government officials, military commanders, and their cronies seized land for personal and institutional enrichment; authorities promoted development plans without regard for those affected; and the military and ethnic armed groups took advantage of fighting and displacement to grab vast swathes of territory. Despite some protections under the law, government officials frequently confiscated land while providing limited or no notice and no compensation, often instantly depriving farmers of their only source of income and regular source of food. As a result, countless rural families struggled to pay for food, health care, and their children’s education. While the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which took power in March 2016, has redoubled efforts to address the issue, large numbers of farmers have been left in the lurch, their livelihoods taken from them and their family’s future uncertain.


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Overall relevance: 

Land disputes are one of the main challenges in Myanmar's reform process. Under the military regime, land confiscation and forced eviction were key issues, with internal conflict also a contributing factor. Small farmers faced land grabbing by government officials, military commanders, and cronies for personal and institutional interests. Both military and ethnic armed groups grabbed vast amounts of land as territory. Government officials still cause land disputes taking land without providing sufficient notice and compensation even though these are required under the law.

Key Themes: 
  • Dispute resolution and access to justice - Small farmers were not being informed or compensated for their lands taken by government officials, military, ethnic armed groups, and cronies. The military-backed government formed the Farmland Investigation Commission, and it has received about 20,000 complaints
  • Land dispossession/land grabbing - The land of smallholder farmers was grabbed by government authorities to promote their development plans and then military and cronies seized the land for their personal and institutional benefits. Moreover, military and ethnic armed groups expand their territory under internal conflict and displacement.
  • Land policy and land law - The NLD government tried to debate and amend about 70 laws that regulate land use in the country including the Farmland Law, the Vacant Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law, and the 1984 Land Acquisition Act. An attempt to reform the 2012 Farmland law in 2017 faced criticism due to a lack of public consultation with communities. The ambiguous terms are still a barrier for the public to understand and apply.
Research basis: 

During a six-month process, Human Rights Watch interviewed farmers and labourers in Yangon, Ayeyarwady Regions and seven townships in southern Shan State. The organisation visited targeted areas multiple times and conducted interviews using interpreters at ground level. All the participants were informed of the purpose of the interview and how the information would be used. (Provided by Nan Aye Aye Thwe)