The draft amendments of the 2012 Farmland Laws and the 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Lands Management Laws are concerning indigenous people
By Khon Soe Moe Aung, Kayah Earthrights Action Network
For the indigenous people of Kayah (Karenni) State, land and natural resources are their life, heart and hope. Yet, as a result of the 2012 Farmland Law and 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land ManagementLaws, enacted in the era of President Thein Sein, land has been legally reallocated land from indigenous and grassroots people to investors. This has left indigenous people with many concerns for their land tenure security. Although the current National League for Democracy government are amending these troublesome land laws, their draft amendments leave many concerns for indigenous people’s life security.
Before the 2012 Land Laws emerged, we did not have many land problems in our region. Following the 2012 Land Laws, among our brothers and sisters we have faced many problems for the ownership of our mountain land.
U Preh Reh (Daw Khu Khu Village, Pruso Township)
During 2017, 16 points within the 2012 Farmland Laws and a further nine points within the Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land Management Law have been amended. The draft amendments do not include concrete and complete ownership for indigenous people of their land; this has caused much worry for indigenous people in Kayah (Karenni) State.
Furthermore the draft amendments to the 2012 Farmland Laws and 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land Act do not include protections for indigenous people’s customary land ownership. This is in spite of the 2016 National Land Use Policy stating that indigenous people’s customary land use must be recognized and protected. As a result of the 2012 Farmland Laws and 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land Act, it is clear that grabbing owned or worked customary land is simple.
“Upon analysis, the draft amendments to the 2012 Farmland Laws and the 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land Management Laws, are not based on the 2016 National Land Use Policy” This is because section 8 of the National Land Use Policy provides rights for indigenous people’s customary land management systems. Thus, the amendments should give guarantees for indigenous people’s land. For example, within our Kayah (Karenni) State, shifting cultivation is practiced. However, it is not provided protection in the 2012 Farmland Laws. They should include this in the draft amendments. So that the indigenous lands will not be taken away”
Poe Sweet (KEAN)
In response to this situation on August 28th and 29th of 2017, the Kayah (Karenni) State Land action group, including Kayah Earthrights Action Network went to NayPyiTaw, to meet and discuss amendments to the 2012 Farmland Laws and 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Act for more concrete indigenous land ownership with the Law Drafting Committee, Farmers and Workers Committee, agriculture, livestock and fishery committee, and representatives of the Kayah State Parliament. Despite this, these suggestions are yet to be discussed within formal legal discussions within the parliament.
Many civil society organizations from Kayah (Karenni) State and the whole of Myanmar working on farmland issues have provided suggestions to the parliament, though the parliament have not discussed this issue in depth. Civil Society Organisations in particular are providing existing concerns to parliamentary representatives on behalf of grassroots and indigenous people. Yet, many questions remain of how much parliament respects the voice of the local people. This has caused increased concern. This has left many concerns about the extent to which the draft amendments to the 2012 Farmland Laws and the 2012 Vacant, Virgin and Fallow Land Act will affect grassroots people and indigenous people’s land ownership rights and life security.
Land Advocacy in NayPyiTaw
All of the indigenous and grassroots people living in the union of Myanmar have the same dream to live in a society with full human dignity, equal rights and development in every sector. Though, for the enjoyment of equal rights and full human dignity, there must be better laws and policies. During the transition period in Myanmar, it is true that the current National League for Democracy government face many challenges in many sectors. However, as the National League for Democracy parliamentary representatives stand, by their words “With the people, for the people”, it is the right time to be courageous and together with the citizen’s voices, to amend and draft laws and policies that protect the citizen’s rights.