Myanmar’s freshly elected government has formed a new committee to tackle a land-grabbing pandemic that still plagues the impoverished Southeast Asian country despite a recent transition away from military dictatorship.
Shortly after being elected in a landslide victory in late 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party announced that it would prioritise bringing an end to the prolific and violent spate of land seizures. To that end, on Tuesday the government announced the formation of a Land Use Management Central Committee.
The new committee will oversea and regulate respective departments in handling land-related matters in all stages of administration, from regional to village-level decisions, according to NGO Global Witness.
“For more than five decades Myanmar’s military junta has seized land and sold it to investors at a huge personal profit, leaving rural communities landless and often destitute,” said Ali Hines of Global Witness
“This is not simply a legacy issue—the military still wields considerable power on the ground and continues to grab yet more land from ethnic minority communities. The new government has set the right tone by encouraging a freeze on further land investments, but must ban all further land acquisitions—including by the military—if it is serious about preventing further conflict” he continued.
As of 2013 around 5.3 million acres of land—35 times the size of Myanmar’s capital Yangon—had been leased for agriculture, mostly to local companies with close connections to the then militarized government and military officials.
Global Witness, in a statement released on Wednesday, claim the land grabs devastated the livelihoods on the Burmese people and those who protetested them were either attacked, incareated or killed by the previous government.
“Without land, and with little or no compensation for it, communities have struggled to make a living and feed their families. The threat of military force has meant that many have been scared to speak out, and many of those who do have met with attacks, incarceration or at worst, execution,” said Hines.