As more and more farmers are losing their lands and livelihoods to corrupt businesses long-associated with the Burma Army, the current government is doing its best to preserve the interests of these wealthy elites at the expense of disempowered rural people. With the onset of the gold rush into Burma, these cronies of the military-backed government are abusing their position to reap the financial rewards of the potential flood of new investment while rural people, who make up 90% of the population, are losing their livelihoods.
One such example is from Bwi Daw Village in Kachin State where residents reported last week of local businessmen confiscating their land at gunpoint and subsequently destroying their crops with tractors to make room for a fish farm. For these villagers, there is no legal remedy and have now lost the ability to put food on the table for their families.
Protests, however, are becoming more and more common as land grabbing is becoming the most prevalent problem for people from all communities across the country.
The 2008 military-authored Constitution. Article 37 of which forms the basis of the law on land confiscations, states that, “The Union is the ultimate owner of all lands and all natural resources above and below the ground, above and beneath the water and in the atmosphere in the Union.” Furthermore, Section 29 allows the state to take over any land in “the national interest.” This is compounded by the 2012 Farmland Bill that, among many other flaws, reinforces the concept that all land is owned by the state while all decisions regarding usage of this land is to be decided by a Farmland Management Body composed of government appointees.
This is particularly problematic when looking at some of the current disputes between companies and farmers, as those who have a vested interest in the land they are confiscating can also be MPs. Lawsuits and threats of prosecution are becoming a favorite method that the government uses to intimidate farmers.