Myanmar Poor farmers are imprisoned in Latputta (လပြတၳာ) today – 04/11/2014
Land Grabs violate rights of the most vulnerable rural populations
A rising trend for large-scale land grabbing in Burma is increasingly impacting the human rights of the most vulnerable populations. Indigenous peoples are at particular risk, as their land rights are not safeguarded.
In Burma, since 1988, former military government grab farmlands and valuable mining areas for the benefit of business cronies and military conglomerates. The widespread confiscation of land from small and poor farmers are still continuing large scale under the existing quasi-civilian government.
According to the Mizzima news on 5th February 2014, Deputy Defence Minister Major-General Kyaw Nyunt told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw that the military would cease confiscating land and would return a total of 150,000 acres to its owners.
Contradiction to the message, for example, the military forcefully evicts villagers and demolishes the houses across the country. Proven records of land grabbing around the world shown that land grabbing is directly linked to the Food security which in turns the right to food. Researchers found that Food security is inextricably linked to developments in the water, energy, and land sectors. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), countries where people lack adequate access to land rights, water and energy are among the worst performers.
Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Mr. Olivier De Schutter, said that the right to food is the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.
According to the World Bank’s data, 80% of the majority of the population in Burma still relies on small farms for their livelihoods and Burma remains the mostly rural country. Farmers needs land, seeds, water and other resources to produce food.
To purchase food, one needs adequate incomes. The right to food therefore requires States to provide an enabling environment in which people can use their full potential to produce or procure adequate food for themselves and their families. Also it consequently requires States to ensure that wage policies or social safety nets enable citizens to realize their right to adequate food. The right to food is also a human right recognized under international law which protects the right of all human beings to feed themselves in dignity, either by producing their food or by purchasing it.
In Burma, land grabbing by the government is unavoidably connected to the foreign investments. Foreign investments sometimes adversely affected the right of local communities to water, food, and adequate housing, and the right to gain a living.
Although investment play big role in poverty alleviation, on the other hand proper large-scale investments in farmland should be binded with appropriate regulation which will also lead to “Win – Win” solutions for all the stakeholders concerned.
Investors should ensure to contain safeguards that also benefit the rural poor by generating employment in the sector, developing rural infrastructure as well as by contributing to poverty reduction.
According to Burma’s 2012 farmland laws, the government owns all “private” land and farmers who protest seizures face severe penalties. The laws strip Burmese farmers of the right to property which is totally unfair, unjust and unethical.
Therefore it is very important that significant measures should be taken to ensure the protection of the vulnerable rural populations because of these investment. The most important fact after all is the State to amend the failing Land policy.
A pregnant lady – Victim of Land grabbing
Photo: Nay Myo Zin