CSOs Want Govt to Stop Land Law Amendment

By Network Media Group
Sunday, January 31, 2021

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) called for amendments of the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin land management law (VFV) that are not inline with federalism and ethnic customary law management to stop.

Sixteen CSOs signed a joint statement on January 27 against the controversial land law and its amendments, which they say favors centralism. “It’s better for all the stakeholders to work together and draw up the land law together,” said Sai Khur Hseng, secretary of Ethnic Community Development Forum. He told NMG during the 21st Panglong Conference they shared reports about traditional land management but they were ignored.

Nai Sawor Mon, coordinator of the Mon Land Affairs Committee, told NMG that the government is preparing to amend the VFV according to the 2008 Constitution and National Land Use Policy of 2016. “We want the government to introduce a federalist land management system. They shouldn’t create one that is based on centralized power.”

According to the joint statement, the National League for Democracy government announced its plans for drafting a new land law amendment prior to the general election and it’s expected to be completed in 2022.

“There’s many land dispute problems across the country,” Sai Khur Hseng told NMG. “At the same time there’s ongoing armed conflicts. So how can we live together? We need to build a federal union, and the government should manage land based on federalism.”

Many farmers had their land confiscated under the VFV, the joint statement said. Nai Sawor Mon told NMG some received prison sentences and fines under the land law that was enacted in 2012.
Previous amendments to the VFV were supposed to improve the situation but it actually made things worse for farmers. A 2018 amendment required unregistered landowners to apply for 30-year leases from the government within six months or face trespassing charges. According to the amendment, about one-third of the land—about 50 million acres—in Burma, mainly in ethnic areas where customary land systems have been in place for generations, is affected.
The VFV and Farmland Law of 2007 didn’t protect the welfare of the farmers, Nai Sawor Mon told NMG, it just allowed the businessmen to get all the land for their projects.

Awng Lat, spokesperson of Federal Ethnic Farmer Network, said if the government enacts a new land law that ignores the ethnic peoples’ desire for a federalist system and traditional customary land management it could ignite the armed conflicts in the country.