Myanmar : New report warns of potential land conflict epidemic

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(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.

“The Myotha Industrial Park is a glaring example of industrial development gone wrong in Myanmar. Stronger checks and balances are urgently needed so that this model is not replicated and more communities are not rendered landless and destitute.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

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.

Villagers also suffered violations of their civil and political rights in connection with the project. At least 55 local farmers and villagers were arrested, detained, or faced criminal charges for attempting to oppose land confiscation and land clearance for the development of the Myotha Industrial Park.

The process for the establishment of Myotha Industrial Park also underscores the failure by the project developer, MMID, to conduct proper human rights due diligence, as prescribed by the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“As businesses increasingly become the main driver for land confiscation in Myanmar, it is crucial that they uphold their responsibility to respect human rights by conducting due diligence and impact assessments. MMID has failed the human rights litmus test and should quickly provide adequate redress for the communities affected by its operations.”

Debbie Stothard, ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General
Press contacts
Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)
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