From January and March 2018, a Paung Ku’s partner, Land in our Hands (LIOH), a national network of grassroots organizations working on land rights, organized twelve workshops for all the states and regions (Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway Regions in one workshop) with the grassroots communities to analyze, consult and respond the 2012 Farmland Law amendment bill, 2017 Land Acquisition Bill and 2017 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law Amendment Bill.
These bills were initiated by Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, chaired by Thura Shwe Man, who is known for his involvement in massive land grabbing for family businesses and their allied cronies when he was in power under the previous military regime. The proposed bills are visibly aimed to further legalize and legitimize State Institutions’ power over land confiscation. The bills particularly grant more power to the Ministry of Home Affairs, where staff members are directly appointed by the Military Commander in Chief, to acquire lands under the pretext of broadly and vaguely defined national security, public interest and development.
The civil society groups, technical and legal experts together with the national and international academics have observed that the bills clearly breach the principles set in the National Land Use Policy that was developed with the inputs from the civil society and experts and approved in 2016 February. A total of 1483 participants including Regional Parliament members, farmers, representatives from civil society and legal practitioners participated in this series of workshops that were supported by Trans National Institute, Thar Thi Myay, and Paung Ku.
The series of workshops issued statements of how these proposed amendments and law fail to protect the rights for land ownership and customary land tenure of grass root communities and give state institutions more power for land governance. A national level workshop is planned in May for a collective voice on the proposed bills and the overall land governance.
The recommendations and demands from this national workshop will be carried forward for advocacy dialogues with union as well as state and regional level authorities for land governance.