Myanmar farmers beneath siege from land law

Han Win Naung is besieged on his land. Last September, neighborhood directors in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi vicinity put up a sign at the brink of his 5.7-hectare farm that read “Under Management Ownership – Do Not Trespass.” They felled the timber and began building a drug rehabilitation facility and an agriculture education school on opposed ends of his plot. He was eventually informed that the administrators had been challenging his claim to the land and had filed charges towards him beneath an arguable law that might see him jailed for three years.

“I didn’t realize what this law was,” the 37-12 months-old farmer instructed Al Jazeera. “I didn’t apprehend what changed into occurring to us. They also requested us to transport. We don’t have everywhere else to go.” Han Win Naung is accused of violating the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin (VVF) Lands Management Law, which requires everybody living on land labeled as “vacant, fallow, and virgin” to use for a allow to keep using it for the subsequent 30 years.

According to estimates primarily based on government data, this class totals extra than 20 million hectares or 30 percent of Myanmar’s land location. Three-quarters of its miles domestic to you. S .’s ethnic minorities. The law has sparked outrage amongst land-rights activists, who say it criminalizes hundreds of thousands of farmers who no longer have permits and lays the floor for unchecked land seizures by way of the government, the navy, and private organizations.


Struggle to continue to exist

“The extra people study this regulation, the greater they’ll use it towards farmers who can’t have the funds for legal professionals,” stated an attorney who’s representing Han Win Naung. She requested to be recognized simplest as a member of Tanintharyi Friends, a group representing several farmers who have been sued under this law. Now Han Win Naung’s farm is in disrepair. Because of the lawsuit, he has not been able to tend to the mango, banana, and cashew timber that has sustained his family because of his father’s farm installation 28 years ago.

“We haven’t been able to do something on the farm in view that September … We are facing numerous problems getting food at the desk,” he stated. The VVF law is modeled on a British colonial policy wherein land occupied by indigenous human beings was labeled “desert” to justify seizing it and extracting its sales. After independence, Myanmar’s army rulers followed the approach to ensure they may feed their ranks. In 2012, the nominally civilian authorities under former fashionable Thein Sein enshrined the approach into law, relating to the targeted land as “vacant, fallow, and virgin” in preference to “desolate tract.”

Last 12 months, notwithstanding coming to power on a platform of defensive the land rights of smallholder farmers and promising to oppose all navy land grabs within a single year, Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) made the VVF regulation stricter. With the NLD’s endorsement, arrests and evictions of farmers like Han Win Naung are accelerating.

In September 2018, Myanmar’s parliament, that is managed by using the NLD, handed a modification that imposed a -year jail sentence on everyone discovered dwelling on “vacant, fallow, and virgin land” without a permit after March 11. This gave tens of millions of farmers, many of them illiterate or unable to talk Burmese, just six months to complete a Kafkaesque method of saying land they already recollect their personal. According to a survey carried out via the Mekong Region Land Governance Project, within the month before the cut-off date, 95 percentage of human beings living on so-known as VVF land had no know-how of the law.

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