News / Asia

Burma Legal Advisers Help Land Grab Victims

Burma Legal Advisers Help Land Grab Victims Get Compensatedi
X
July 26, 2013 1:04 PM
Burma’s political and economic opening has enticed scores of foreign investors and spurred a real estate boom. But many Burmese feel they are not getting a fair deal when big business buys up land for development. Now roving legal advisers are traveling the countryside, advising citizens on how to assert their rights.
VOA News
Burma’s political and economic opening has enticed scores of foreign investors and spurred a real estate boom. But many Burmese feel they are not getting a fair deal when big business buys up land for development. Now roving legal advisers are traveling the countryside, advising citizens on how to assert their rights.

Land values are soaring in parts of Burma, even in ethnic states, where fighting has left thousands homeless. The government hopes foreign investment will lift the fortunes of millions, but many feel they are already being left out of the profits.

Few people have legal land deeds and the former military-backed government confiscated huge tracts of land years ago. For many people, the sale of property they are living on will not mean a big payday.

Veteran pro-democracy activist and lawyer Aung Htoo says there is one main issue – ownership.

“The problem is that the state is the sole owner of all land in our country. It’s [a] constitutionally provided provision as far as land issues are concerned,” he said.

Htoo trains fellow lawyers and activists to help people fight for compensation. It is an uphill battle.

 “Our training is aimed to provide education to the important activists and some lawyers and law graduates so that they have more awareness on the constitution. So that they may be able to become trainers to provide multiple training to the rest of the people,” explained Aung Htoo.

Recent land reforms now allow farmers and land owners to be given compensation - even if the state still holds the deed. But as land disputes erupt across Burma, some worry the problem could grow along with foreign investments.

Paul Donowitz is with Earth Rights International, a group monitoring land issues in Burma.

“When farmers are using the land to sustain themselves their communities are forced to sell their land where they don’t want to move. There isn’t any other land but the government or a company is basically forcing them off their land. It's forced compensation and they are being told in a number of circumstances, either you take it or leave it,” said Donowitz.

But Aung Htoo hopes his students find a third option: to press their case in the courts or through public opinion. He says the ultimate goal is to change the constitution.

“If the government has a sincere objective to bring development for the entire people, they must try to amend not only the constitution but also other relevant laws so that the people shall enjoy the right to own the land and the right to manage the land,” said Aung Htoo.

In the meantime, Aung Htoo’s classrooms will be a place where citizens learn about the current laws, so they can become more successful at pressing authorities to change them.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid