(Paris, Yangon) Myanmar may soon face a land conflict epidemic as a result of the growing influx of investments and the consequent demand for land, unless laws and policies that adequately address land rights issues are urgently adopted and implemented, FIDH warned in a new report published today.
The FIDH report titled “ Land of sorrow: Human rights violations at Myanmar’s Myotha Industrial Park ”, documents the harmful consequences suffered by rural communities in Myanmar’s Mandalay Region as a result of the Myotha Industrial Park, a large-scale industrial project developed by the Burmese company Mandalay Myotha Industrial Development (MMID) in Ngazun Township.
In the Myotha Industrial Park development area, the combination of a flawed legal framework, unscrupulous authorities, and irresponsible investors produced a perfect storm in which more than 1,000 families from 14 villages lost their land – their sole source of livelihood – to make way for the project’s development.
The process of land acquisition from residents was not inclusive, contravened national laws, and failed to meet international standards related to good practices of consultation with affected communities. The process by which compensation was offered to farmers was riddled with corruption, confusion, arbitrary compensation amounts, and intimidation.
Many of the farmers reported that authorities significantly under-calculated their land area, with calculations that, in many cases, accounted for only between 10% and 25% of the total amount of land farmers said they used. Many farmers who reluctantly accepted compensation for some or all of their land only did so after authorities and the project developer warned them that they would still lose their land and receive nothing in return if they refused. Farmers who refused to accept the compensation offered for their land reported that both the authorities and the project developer intimidated and threatened them with arrest and imprisonment.
Farmers, local activists, and community leaders also accused authorities of corruption and claimed that government officers had asked farmers to pay bribes to measure the land accurately.
Land confiscation and clearing to make way for the project, coupled with the inability of farmers to purchase replacement land of comparable size in the area, deprived farmers of their farmland and access to food, livelihood, and adequate housing. The loss of their land has had a negative impact on the enjoyment of the right to work for local farmers, many of whom ended up working as hired day laborers, often performing menial tasks such as construction, portering, or collecting firewood. Many affected villagers left the area after losing their land and, in some cases, moved to Mandalay to seek employment in factories there.