Myanmar: Farmers fear land law requiring permit will be "selectively enforced" on them instead of large-scale land grabbers

Author: Thompson Chau & Kyaw Soe Htet, Myanmar Times, Published on: 17 March 2019

"Renewed fears of mass displacement as land deadline nears", 11 March 2019

Farmers and displaced communities are in a state of high anxiety as the deadline set by the government's controversial land law amendment takes effect today with no sign of change.

The Vacant, Fallow and Virgin (VFV) Lands Management Law...requires anyone occupying or using VFV land to apply for an official permit...to use the land for 30 years or face eviction and up to two years in jail.

Civil society organisations and NGOs...plea to the government to halt its implementation.

...Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch...said many people were unaware of the law and consequences of not filing a claim, or were unable to do so as they are displaced.

...[O]bservers have repeatedly warned that the law criminalises and dispossesses millions of smallholder farmers in the ethnic borderlands who hold and use land under customary tenure rights for which there is no formal recognition. It also potentially extinguishes the land rights of hundreds of thousands people from displaced communities.

...Small and medium-sized enterprises and smallholder farmers are worried that the law will be "selectively enforced" on them instead of large-scale land grabbers, according to Daw Thyn Zar Oo. Small businesses who complied with the previous regulations are forced to "unfairly go through burdens of re-application" as well as cost, with no guarantees of land permits in sight.

...Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB)...warned that the amendments go against Myanmar's obligations to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which the government has signed and ratified. Compliance with ICESCR is a critical factor for Myanmar to attract responsible investors....

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