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12 October 2012

Letter of Global Solidarity against Land Grabs in Burma/Myanmar


9 October, 2012, Burma/Myanmar

The current reforms in Burma/Myanmar are worsening land grabs in the country. Since the mid-2000s there has been a spike in land grabs, especially leading up to the 2010 national elections. Military and government authorities have been granting large-scale land concessions to well-connected Burmese companies.

Farmers’ protests against land grabs have drawn recent public attention to many high profile cases, such as Yuzana’s Hukawng Valley cassava concession, the Dawei SEZ in Tanintharyi Region near the Thai border, Zaygaba’s industrial development zone outside Yangon, and the current Monywa copper mine expansion in Sagaing Division, among many others. By 2011, over 200 Burmese companies had officially been allocated approximately 2 million acres (nearly 810,000 hectares) for privately held agricultural concessions, mainly for agro-industrial crops such as rubber, palm oil, jatropha (physic nut), cassava and sugarcane.

Land grabs are now set to accelerate due to new government laws that are specifically designed to encourage foreign investments in land. The two new land laws (the Farmlands Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law) establish a legal framework to reallocate so-called ‘wastelands’ to domestic and foreign private investors. Moreover, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Law and Foreign Investment Law that are being finalized, along with ASEAN-ADB regional infrastructure development plans, will provide new incentives and drivers for land grabbing and further compound the dispossession of local communities from their lands and resources. Land conflicts that are now emerging throughout the country will worsen as foreign companies, supported by foreign governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs), rush in to profit from Burma/Myanmar’s political and economic transition period.

Land grabs have especially severe impacts on the people in Burma/Myanmar since 70 percent of the country’s population is made up of rural farmers who rely on their farmlands to survive. The government, with help from UN agencies, is beginning a national land titling programme to turn land into capital and formalize land use rights. While this presents a solution to some – especially urban land holders – land titling presents huge challenges and tenure insecurity for rural farmers, especially in the uplands, as already evidenced in Cambodia and the Lao PDR.

Instead of focusing only on technological fixes, such as land titling, the government should adopt laws and policies that support smallhold farmers’ livelihoods, such as legal recognition of and respect for customary rights and institutions, as well as recognition of upland shifting cultivation as a formal land use category. Smallhold farmers, landless people, and land-poor households have fundamental rights to land and food that need immediate attention. These rights must be protected by new government legislation, which is the best way to ensure sustainable and equitable development for Burma/Myanmar.

Furthermore, the Burma/Myanmar government should follow global trends and respect the Dakar Appeal against Land Grabbing, the Nyéléni Plan of Action against Land Grabbing, and the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform’s statements against Responsible AgriculturaI Investments (RAI). Burma/Myanmar does not have to follow the mistakes made by other countries, who have been advised by IFIs and foreign governments to allow their lands to be exploited by foreign and domestic companies. Farmers’ lands in Burma/Myanmar are not for sale.

We, the undersigned, give our full support and solidarity to the farmers in Burma/Myanmar in resisting land grabs in their country!

Saturnino M. Borras Jr., International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherlands
Philip McMichael, Professor, Development Sociology, Cornell University, USA
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
FIAN International
EarthRights International, USA
World Rainforest Movement
Dr. Rajeev Patel, Fellow, Food First, USA
Food & Water Watch, USA
Oakland Institute, Oakland, CA, USA
Dr. Ken Kampe, Tamthai Fund, Chiangmai, Thailand
Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, India
The Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Manipur, India
Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, India 
North East Peoples Alliance, India
Food First, USA
Inclusive Development International, USA
Dr. Radhika Balakrishnan, Rutgers University, USA
Sindhu Bachao Tarla (Save Indus Struggle), Pakistan.
Re Common, Italy
Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), Indonesia
Aksi, Indonesia
Culture Identity and Resources Use Management (CIRUM), Vietnam
ATTAC, Japan
Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
Thai Poor Act, Thailand
Local Action Links, Thailand
Biothai Foundation, Thailand
Four Regions Slum Network (FRSN), Thailand
Community Organization for People’s Action (COPA), Thailand
Human Settlement Foundation (HSF), Thailand
Leaders and Organizers of Community Organizations in Asia (LOCOA), Thailand
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
Community Peace Building Network (CPN), Cambodia
Peoples’ Action for Change (PAC), Cambodia
Jeremy Ironside, Cambodia
Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), Cambodia
Free Burma Campaign, South Africa
Alternative Information & Development Centre of South Africa, South Africa
Altsean-Burma (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma)
Actions Birmanie, Belgium
Burma Campaign Australia
The Polaris Institute, Canada
FERN, UK and Belgium
Burma Campaign UK
Centro Internazionale Crocevia, Italy
Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Philippines
Terra Nuova, Italy
CECCAM, Mexico
Land Research Action Network (LRAN)
Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, India,
Beyond Copenhagen Collective, India
Amadou Taal, Worldview-The Gambia
REDES—Friends of the Earth, Uruguay
Friends of the Earth International
M Kikon, DICE Foundation, Nagaland, India 
Grassroots International, USA
All Nepal Peasants Federation, Nepal
Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh
Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Bangladesh
Secretariat, La Via Campesina, South Asia
MONLAR, Sri Lanka
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, India
Bhartiya KIsan Union, India
Thamizhaga Vivasaylgal Sangam , India
Burma Action Ireland
Paulette Nonfodji, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Joshua Muldavin, Action 2030 Institute, Professor of Human Geography and Asian Studies, Sarah Lawrence College, USA
Raymond Craib, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University, USA
Meghan Morris, Graduate Student, University of Chicago, USA
Social Action for Change (SAC), Cambodia
Farmers Nature Net (FNN), Cambodia
Professor Ian Scoones, Future Agricultures Consortium, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
Justa Hopma, Aberystwyth University, PhD student
Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development studies, UK
Teo Ballvé, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley, USA
James K. Boyce, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, USA
FIAN Germany
Burma Partnership
Andrianna Natsoulas, USA
Shelter for the Poor, Bangladesh
Swiss Burma Association, Swizerland
Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), USA
Global Exchange, USA
Food Not Bombs, Malaysia
Thai Working Group for Climate Justice, Thailand
Center for Ecological Awareness Building /EAB, Thailand
ASEAN Watch, Thailand
FTA Watch, Thailand
National Forum for the Urban Poor, India
Global Witness, UK
Cecile Fameree, Leiden Institute of Areas Studies (LIAS), Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
Both ENDS , The Netherlands
S. Ryan Isakson, Assistant Professor of International Development Studies University of Toronto, Canada
Prof. Shelley Feldman, Development Sociology and Director, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Cornell University, USA

Prof. Kathleen McAfee, Associate Professor, International Relations, San Francisco State University, USA
Hannah Wittman, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Prof. Michael Eilenburg, Aarhus University, Denmark


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