News / Asia

Burmese Investment Boom Fuels Worries Over Land Grabs

Burmese farmers look at police from inside a monastery in protest against the seizing of farmland across 26 villages for a copper mine project in Sarlingyi Township, September 12, 2012.
Burmese farmers look at police from inside a monastery in protest against the seizing of farmland across 26 villages for a copper mine project in Sarlingyi Township, September 12, 2012.
Ron Corben
The opening of Burma’s economy to foreign investors is leading to conflicts over land confiscation, as politically-connected businessmen seize agricultural lands for development projects. The problem has led to the government’s creation of a commission to deal with mounting complaints. A $50 billion special economic zone in southeastern Burma is the latest area of concern.
 
Seized land

In Burma, all land is nominally owned by the state, leaving small-scale farmers without legal land titles.
 
Over the years, businesses with connections to the country’s military government were able to seize land from farmers and villagers, mostly to build lucrative mining or agricultural projects. Many of those who lost their lands received little compensation.
 
Now, as the government considers new laws to attract foreign investors, activists say there has been a rash of land seizures with up to 3.6 million hectares being taken by government, private companies and the military as the economy prepares for more foreign investment.
 
“One of the things that we’re seeing coming up all over Burma is land problems - seizures of land - unauthorized taking of land - by well connected wealthy people. Burma is starting to see similarly in areas that previously were not considered to be very important," explained Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia director for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. "All of a sudden they are starting to look vulnerable and people with connections are displacing farmers and others.”
 
Burma’s Army, which has a long history of land seizures, is also accused of continuing to grab land in ethnic areas. Khin Ohmar is spokesperson for the rights group Burma Partnership, who says the moves are fueling suspicion about the army’s plans. “We’ve been getting reports of the army taking the large [amounts of] land in ethnic areas - building the army camps," he said. "So the question comes, why are they building the new army camps in the democratic climate; democratic transition?”
 
Villagers speak out

While activists say the problem is worsening, there are signs that the government is responding to the issue through the creation of the land commission under the Office of the President.
 
Kevin Woods, a researcher with Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, says the commission illustrates the new “political space” that allows protestors to file complaints -- in stark contrast with the past.
 
“It was never possible before for villagers to speak out about this or else they would disappear. And suddenly now it’s possible - not of course without intimidation from authority figures, but people are not disappearing from raising these issues and it’s having a kind of domino effect in terms of other villagers,” stated Woods.
 
Displacement risk, land confiscation

Of particular concern is the $50 billion, 250 square kilometer Dawei Special Economic Zone in southeastern Burma. The project, strategically located to link to Thai transport routes, has been a key initiative for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
 
Transnational Institute in its latest report says the Thai-backed project is putting more than 30,000 people, 20 primary schools and numerous temples, at risk of being displaced.
 
The Dawei Development Corp says it has new accommodations for those displaced along with lump sum payments. But residents fear a loss of their livelihoods.
 
The Institute’s Woods says new land laws and foreign investment laws will leave small scale farmers vulnerable in government moves to set up a “land market” in Burma. “You have created a situation that could potentially eliminate the livelihoods of 70 per cent of the country’s population which are small holder farmers. When we talk about progressive laws, the country has literally put their land up for sale when the vast majority of people are directly reliant about that for their livelihood.”
 
But Asian Development Bank (ADB) economist Alfredo Perdiquero says while land confiscation is a concern there appears to be some progress in dealing with the issue.
 
“The situation will improve for several reasons. You can see already people are starting to become more aware of their rights. The media is more open. So when there is some land confiscation - which is very unfair - this comes up in the media. Even in the north you hear stories of Chinese investment which is already providing much more significant compensation for land per acre than used to be,” Perdiquero noted.
 
Analysts say the issue remains a key test of the Burmese government’s ability to entice foreign investment and create a government body to address the complaints of the country’s citizens.

You May Like

Malaysian PM Ends Vacation Over Floods

Najib Razak had been criticized for golfing in Hawaii with US president while country suffered More

Photogallery Fear Amid Remembrances for Tsunami Victims

Across continent, services and tributes acknowledge 220,000 victims of 2004 Indian Ocean disaster; region remains inadequately prepared, experts say More

Liberia’s House Speaker Denies Manipulating Election Outcome

Alex Tyler said he’s being used as a scapegoat by people who are refusing to accept defeat in the December 20 special senatorial election More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Nga Aung
October 23, 2012 6:51 AM
Former Military Bureaucrats are taking over the lands unfairly ,by this way they can blackmail the next democractic government. Former Lands owners will be noisy and make new government to be crisis. They will laugh . Actually they have no actual Economic Idea by rightway. They can do unfair robbery economy by weapon.
Please stop your brutal behavior. Most of the foreign debt were in your foreign accounts. Very shameful for paying from Japan.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid