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Land rights

Individual Documents

Title: Land confiscation threatens villagers' livelihoods in Dooplaya District
Date of publication: 31 October 2011
Description/subject: "In September 2011, residents of Je--- village, Kawkareik Township told KHRG that they feared soldiers under Tatmadaw Border Guard Battalion #1022 and LIBs #355 and #546 would soon complete the confiscation of approximately 500 acres of land in their community in order to develop a large camp for Battalion #1022 and homes for soldiers' families. According to the villagers, the area has already been surveyed and the Je--- village head has informed local plantation and paddy farm owners whose lands are to be confiscated. The villagers reported that approximately 167 acres of agricultural land, including seven rubber plantations, nine paddy farms, and seventeen betelnut and durian plantations belonging to 26 residents of Je--- have already been surveyed, although they expressed concern that more land would be expropriated in the future. The Je--- residents said that the village head had told them rubber plantation owners would be compensated according to the number of trees they owned, but that the villagers were collectively refusing compensation and avoiding attending a meeting at which they worried they would be ordered to sign over their land. The villagers that spoke with KHRG said they believed the Tatmadaw intended to take over their land in October after the end of the annual monsoon, and that this would seriously undermine livelihoods in a community in which many villagers depended on subsistence agriculture on established land. This bulletin is based on information collected by KHRG researchers in September and October 2011, including five interviews with residents of Je--- village, 91 photographs of the area, and a written record of lands earmarked for confiscation."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html, pdf (452K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg11b41.pdf

Date of entry/update: 23 January 2012

Title: Overview of Land Confiscation in Arakan State
Date of publication: June 2010
Description/subject: Introduction: "The following analysis has been compiled to bring attention to a wider audience of many of the problems facing the people of Burma, especially in Arakan State. The analysis focuses particularly on the increase in land confiscation resulting from intensifying military deployment in order to magnify security around a number of governmental developments such as the Shwe Gas, Kaladan, and Hydropower projects in western Burma of Arakan State...Conclusion: "The SPDC's ongoing parallel policy of increasing militarisation while increased forced land confiscation to house and feed the increasing troop numbers causes widespread problems throughout Burma. By stripping people of the land upon which peopl's livelihoods are based, whilst providing only desultory compensation if any at all, many citizens face threats to their food security as well as water shortages, a decrease or abolition of their income, eradicating their ability to educate their children in order to create a sustainable income source in the future. Additionally, the policy of using forced labour in the Government's construction and development projects, coupled with the disastrous environmental effects of many of these projects, continues to create severe health problems throughout the country whilst simultaneously stifling the local economy so that varied or sustainable work is difficult to become engaged in. All of this often leads to people fleeing the country in search of a better life."
Language: English
Source/publisher: All Arakan Students' and Youths' Congress (AASYC)
Format/size: pdf (2.3MB)
Date of entry/update: 16 June 2010

Title: Exploitative abuse and villager responses in Thaton District
Date of publication: 25 November 2009
Description/subject: "...SPDC control of Thaton District is fully consolidated, aided by the DKBA and a variety of other civilian and parastatal organisations. These forces are responsible for perpetrating a variety of exploitative abuses, which include a litany of demands for 'taxation' and provision of resources, as well as forced labour on development projects and forced recruitment into the DKBA. Villagers also report ongoing abuses related to SPDC and DKBA 'counter insurgency' efforts, including the placement of unmarked landmines in civilian areas, conscription of people as porters and 'human minesweepers' and harassment and violent abuse of alleged KNLA supporters. This report includes information on abuses during the period of April to October 2009..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Reports (KHRG #2009-F20)
Format/size: html, pdf (531 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f20.pdf
Date of entry/update: 29 November 2009

Title: Networks of Noncompliance: Grassroots resistance and sovereignty in militarised Burma
Date of publication: 22 July 2009
Description/subject: "This paper examines repression and state–society conflict in Burma through the lens of rural and urban resistance strategies. It explores networks of noncompliance through which civilians evade and undermine state control over their lives, showing that the military regime’s brutal tactics represent not control, but a lack of control. Outside agencies ignore this state–society struggle over sovereignty at their peril: ignoring the interplay of interventions with local politics and militarisation, and claiming a ‘humanitarian neutrality’ which is impossible in practice, risks undermining the very civilians interventions are supposed to help, while facilitating further state repression. Greater honesty and awareness in interventions is required, combined with greater solidarity with villagers’ resistance strategies."... Keywords: peasant resistance; humanitarian policy; Karen; Kayin; Burma; Myanmar
Author/creator: Kevin Malseed
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Journal of Peasant Studies" (originally published by Yale Agrarian Studies Colloquium, 2008-04-25 and Karen Human Rights Group, 2008-11-10)
Format/size: pdf (203K)
Date of entry/update: 25 November 2009

Title: Land confiscation and the business of human rights abuse in Thaton District
Date of publication: 02 April 2009
Description/subject: "While the SPDC and DKBA have both continued to utilise forced labour and extortion as means of financing local operations in Thaton, these two groups have also employed other, separate exploitive practices. The SPDC has confiscated large tracts of land belonging to local villagers and then sold it to the Max Myanmar Company for use in rubber cultivation. The DKBA, for its part, has used forced labour, arbitrarily detained and beaten villages and has also required Thaton villagers to buy calendars and religious photographs of DKBA leaders. This report documents abuses between September 2008 and January 2009..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Reports (KHRG #2009-F6)
Format/size: html, pdf (6582KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg09f6.pdf
Date of entry/update: 31 October 2009

Title: Holding Our Ground: Land Confiscation in Arakan & Mon States, and Pa-O Area of Southern Shan State
Date of publication: March 2009
Description/subject: Introduction: "The following report has been compiled to bring to the attention of a wider audience many of the problems facing the people of Burma, especially its many ethnic nationalities. For many outside observers, Burma’s problems are confined simply to the ongoing incarceration of Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s democratically elected leader, and many other political prisoners. However, as we hope to show in the following report, this is only one of very many human rights abuses that provide obstacles to the people’s hope for democracy. This report concentrates in 3 specific areas of the country – Arakan State, Mon State and the Pa-O Area of southern Shan State. This is partly due to budget and time constraints, but, primarily because the brutal treatment received by the people of these areas at the hands of the military junta has received limited media attention in the past."...Conclusion: "The SPDC’s ongoing dual policy of increasing militarization and forced land confiscation, both to house and feed the increasing troop numbers, causes widespread problems throughout Burma. By robbing people of the land from which many make their livings, without any or providing only desultory compensation, many citizens face drastic problems such as food and water shortages, an inability to educate their children and an inability to find work. Additionally, the policy of using forced labour in the Government’s construction and development projects, coupled with the disastrous environmental effects of many of these projects, continues to create severe health problems throughout the country. All of this often leads to people fleeing the country in search of a better life."
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC), Pa-O Youth Organisation (PYO) and Mon Youth Progressive Organisation (MYPO)
Format/size: pdf (2.2MB - English; 793K - Burmese)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs07/HOLDING_OUR_GROUND(bu).pdf
Date of entry/update: 21 April 2009

Title: Arbitrary Confiscation of Farmers’ Land by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Military Regime in Burma
Date of publication: February 2008
Description/subject: Abstract" "This research was framed by a human rights approach to development as pursued by Amartya Sen. Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development but they are the principle means of development. The research was informed by international obligations to human rights and was placed within a context of global pluralism and recognition of universal human dignity. The first research aim was to study the State Peace and Development Council military regime confiscation of land and labour of farmers in villages of fourteen townships in Rangoon, Pegu, and Irrawaddy Divisions and Arakan, Karenni, and Shan States. Four hundred and sixty-seven individuals were interviewed to gain understanding of current pressures facing farmers and their families. Had crops, labour, household food, assets, farm equipment been confiscated? If so, by whom, and what reason was given for the confiscation? Were farmers compensated for this confiscation? How did family households respond and cope when land was confiscated? In what ways were farmers contesting the arbitrary confiscation of their land? A significant contribution of this research is that it was conducted inside Burma with considerable risk for all individuals involved. People who spoke about their plight, who collected information, and who couriered details of confiscation across the border into Thailand were at great risk of arrest. Interviews were conducted clandestinely in homes, fields, and sometimes during the night. Because of personal security risks there are inconsistent data sets for the townships. People revealed concerns of health, education, lack of land tenure and livelihood. Several farmers are contesting the confiscation of their land, but recognise that there is no rule by law or independent judiciary in Burma. Farmers and their family members want their plight to be known internationally. When they speak out they are threatened with detention. Their immediate struggle is to survive. The second aim was to analyse land laws and land use in Burma from colonial times, independence in 1948, to the present military rule by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The third aim was to critically review international literature on land tenure and land rights with special focus on research conducted in post-conflict, post-colonial, and post-socialist nations and how to resolve land claims in face of no documentation. We sought ideas and practices which could inform creation of land laws, land and property rights, in democratic transition in Burma."
Author/creator: Dr. Nancy Hudson-Rodd; Sein Htay
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Burma Fund
Format/size: pdf (11MB)
Date of entry/update: 29 March 2008

Title: Displacement and Dispossession: Forced Migration and Land Rights in Burma
Date of publication: 05 December 2007
Description/subject: "According to COHRE's new report, 'Displacement and Dispossession: Forced Migration and Land Rights in Burma', land confiscation by Government forces is responsible for many serious housing, land and property (HLP) rights violations in Burma. These abuses occur during military counter-insurgency operations; to clear land for the construction of new army bases; to make way for infrastructure development projects; to facilitate natural resource extraction; and to cater for the vested interests of business. 'Displacement and Dispossession: Forced Migration and Land Rights in Burma' also reveals that control of land is a key strategy for the military regime, and a means of promoting the on-going expansion of the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw). In 1998, the SPDC issued a directive instructing Tatmadaw battalions to become self-sufficient in rice and other basic provisions. This prompted the Tatmadaw to 'live off the land' by appropriating resources (food, cash, labour, land) from the civilian population. This policy has exacerbated conflict and displacement across much of rural Burma. The Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) and its partners estimate that during 2007, approximately 76,000 people have been newly displaced by armed conflict and associated human rights abuses. The majority of new incidents of forced migration and village destruction were concentrated in northeast Karen State and adjacent areas of Pegu Division. The total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Eastern Burma in October 2007 was 503,000. These included 295,000 people in ceasefire zones, 99,000 IDPs 'in hiding' in the jungle and 109,000 in relocation sites. The estimates exclude hundreds of thousands of IDPs in other parts of Burma (especially Kachin and Shan States, and the west of the country, as well as in some parts of Karen State). Including these figures would bring the total to over a million internally displaced people. COHRE's Du Plessis said, "More than one million people have been dispossessed and are internally displaced in Burma -- not because of a natural disaster, but due to their own government's calculated and brutal actions. We have here a state monopoly which forcibly transfers property, income and assets, from rural, non-Burman ethnic nationalities to an elite, military Government. The HLP violations found in Burma today are the result of short-sighted and predatory policies that date back to the early years of Independence, and to the period of colonial rule. These problems can only be resolved through substantial and sustained change in Burma. Political transition should include improved access to a range of fundamental rights, as enshrined in international law and conventions -- including respect for HLP rights."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Coalition on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
Format/size: pdf (3.21MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ashleysouth.co.uk/files/COHRE_November_2007.pdf
Date of entry/update: 01 December 2010

Title: Pa
Date of publication: 11 February 2006
Description/subject: "Villagers in northern Pa'an District of central Karen State say their livelihoods are under serious threat due to exploitation by SPDC military authorities and by their Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) allies who rule as an SPDC proxy army in much of the region. Villages in the vicinity of the DKBA headquarters are forced to give much of their time and resources to support the headquarters complex, while villages directly under SPDC control face rape, arbitrary detention and threats to keep them compliant with SPDC demands. The SPDC plans to expand Dta Greh (a.k.a. Pain Kyone) village into a town in order to strengthen its administrative control over the area, and is confiscating about half of the village's productive land without compensation to build infrastructure which includes offices, army camps and a hydroelectric power dam - destroying the livelihoods of close to 100 farming families. Local villagers, who are already struggling to survive under the weight of existing demands, fear further forced labour and extortion as the project continues..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Report (KHRG #2006-F1)
Format/size: pfd (739 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2006/khrg06f1.pdf
Date of entry/update: 09 November 2009

Title: Deserted Fields: The destruction of agriculture in Mong Nai Township, Shan State
Date of publication: January 2006
Description/subject: Summary: "Wrong-headed agricultural and development policies, counter-insurgency activities, as well as corruption and cronyism by the Burmese military regime, have all caused a dramatic decrease in rice production and food security in southern Shan State over the past ten years. The township of Mong Nai provides a good example of how food security, commonly defined as the physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times, has been put in a precarious condition despite the regime’s claims that it is achieving self-sufficiency and agricultural development. In the past Mong Nai was well known for its fertile land and abundant production of quality rice. Even though people could not make much income from their crops, they had enough to survive. Since 1994, however, a series of national policies and initiatives have led to a decline in rice production, the abandonment of fertile fields, and the exodus of thousands of residents to neighbouring Thailand. In order to implement its national rice procurement policy, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) set up a paddy (unmilled rice) buying center in the town of Mong Nai in 1994. Farmers were forced to sell rice to the regime at depressed prices (about one quarter of the normal market price) based on the acreage of land they customarily tended and regardless of actual crop yields. This center, and how its quota system was implemented, disrupted farmers’ access to their own rice harvests and drove many into debt. The SPDC proudly announced the abolishment of this system and the opening of a market-oriented economy in 2003. However, new practices have been able to ensure that the military maintains its own stores of rice at the expense of local populations. agriculture, and led to decreased rice production and food security in the township. The amount of rice fields under cultivation has decreased by approximately 56% since 1994 while the population has decreased by approximately 30%. The drastic decrease in upland agriculture has practically wiped out the cultivation of sesame and the subsequent production of sesame oil in the township, while a wide variety of beans, fruits, and other vegetables are also not cultivated. Restrictions on trade and travel have made foodstuffs harder to get and more expensive. Contrary to the regime’s claims, Burma is not on the road to self-sufficiency and food security."... Table of Contents: Summary.2; Background 4; Food and Agriculture Situation Before 1994 5; Rice Procurement Policy/the Quota System 6; Forced Relocation 7; Map 1: Rice Cultivation and Villages in 1994 8; Map 2: Rice Culitvation, Remaining Villages and Confiscated Lands in 2005 9; Land Confiscation 10; Restricted Movement 12; Trading Restrictions 13; Forced Planting of Summer Paddy 13; Conclusion: The Situation Today 15... Appendix 1: Decrease in Rice Production in Mong Nai Township 1994-2005 16.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Shan Relief and Development Committee (SRDC)
Format/size: pdf (204K)
Date of entry/update: 18 January 2006

Title: Housing, Land, and Property Rights in Burma
Date of publication: October 2004
Description/subject: "...The main objective of this research is to examine housing, land, and property rights in the context of Burma’s societal transition towards a democratic polity and economy. Much has been written and discussed about property rights in their various manifestations, private, public, collective, and common in terms of “rights”. When property rights are widely and fairly distributed, they are inseparable from the rights of people to a means of living. Yet in the contemporary world, millions of people are denied access to the land, markets, technology, money and jobs essential to creation of livelihoods (Korten, 1998). The most significant worldwide problems of unjust property rights remain those associated with landlessness, rural poverty, and inequality (Hudson-Rodd & Nyunt, 2000)..."
Author/creator: Nancy Hudson-Rodd
Language: English
Source/publisher: Edith Cowan University, Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
Format/size: pdf (741K)
Date of entry/update: 26 February 2007

Title: No Land to Farm
Date of publication: 30 September 2003
Description/subject: "...In the last four years, the Burmese army based in Mon State has confiscated thousands acres of farmland. The farmers whose land had been confiscated were not given any compensation. They have no opportunity to take legal actions against the army. As a result, many farmers who lost their lands left to Thailand to seek employment. Those who stayed in villages and towns became landless and jobless..." Land confiscation by the Burmese military - description, analysis and case studies.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 18 June 2004

Title: Karen Human Rights Group Commentary #96-C3
Date of publication: 18 July 1996
Description/subject: "...The State Law & Order Restoration Council (SLORC) junta ruling Burma is now using mass forced relocations of entire geographic regions as a major element of military strategy. While this is not new to SLORC tactics, they have seldom or never done it to such an extent or so systematically before. The large-scale relocations began in Papun District of Karen State in December 1995 and January 1996, when up to 100 Karen villages were ordered to move within a week or be shot [see "Forced Relocation in Papun District", KHRG #96-11, 4/3/96]. These were all the villages in the region between Papun and the Salween River, an area about 50-60 km. north-south and 30 km. east-west. Most of them were ordered to move to sites beside military camps at Papun, Kaw Boke, Par Haik and Pa Hee Kyo, where SLORC was gathering people to do forced labour on the Papun-Bilin and Papun-Kyauk Nyat roads. However, the main reasons for the forced relocation were to cut off all possible support for Karen guerrilla columns in the area, most of which has only been SLORC-controlled since mid-1995, and to create a free-fire zone which would also block the flow of refugees from inside Karen State to the Thai border. Recently, though, SLORC troops in the area have limited their movements rather than combing the area, allowing some villagers to trickle back to their villages. This may be partly because of rainy season or because of the current SLORC-Karen National Union ceasefire talks, but it is probably largely because SLORC realised it could not control the result - people were fleeing into hiding in the jungle, some were fleeing to Thailand, but none were heading for the relocation camps. This has not stopped SLORC from conducting new and larger relocation campaigns. Starting in March 1996 it began an unprecedented forced relocation campaign in central and southern Shan State, covering the entire region from the Salween River westward for 120 km. to Lai Kha and Mong Kung, and from Lang Ker and Mong Nai in the south (about 60 km. north of the Thai border) northward to the area west of the ruby mines at Mong Hsu - a total area of 120 km. east-west and 180 km. north-south. [See "Forced Relocation in Central Shan State", KHRG #96-23, 25/6/96.] In this area, between March and June almost every village away from towns and major roads has been forced to move. Estimates are that at least 400-500 villages are included, a total of 60,000-80,000 people. Information gathered by both the Shan Human Rights Foundation and KHRG already includes the names of 320 villages, as well as 22 other village tracts (averaging 5-15 villages per tract) for which lists of village names are not yet available, in Kun Hing, Mong Nai, Nam Sang, Lai Kha, Mong Kung, Lang Ker, Mong Nong, and Kay See townships..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #96-C3)
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg96/khrg96c3.html
Date of entry/update: 22 November 2009

Title: Notes on Landmine Use: SLORC and KNLA
Date of publication: 31 March 1996
Description/subject: "...The technical mine information below was obtained from KNLA sources and was current as of early 1994, though it is apparently still current. The notes regarding effect on civilians are mainly from KHRG observations. Abbreviations: SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, the junta ruling Burma; KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, the Karen resistance force; DKBA = Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army, a Karen faction allied with SLORC..." "...The most common landmine used is the American M-76, of which the Burmese now manufacture their own copies. Almost all of these found used to be American-made, but now more are the Burmese copies. They are the "classic" landmine design, made of heavy-duty metal, cylindrical, about 2" diameter and 4-5" high, with a screw-in top the diameter of a pencil which extends a couple of inches above the body of the mine - this screw-in top is surmounted by a plunger the size of a pencil eraser which is what sets off the mine. The safety pin goes through the plunger, and can be used to rig a tripwire. However, most common use is to bury the mine with only the plunger above ground, generally hidden by leaf litter. The body of the mine is Army green, stencilled with yellow lettering: for example "LTM-76 A.P. MINE / DI-LOT 48/84" (copied off a recovered SLORC mine). "A.P." means Anti-Personnel. This mine is designed to kill or maim people. The person who steps on it is almost certainly killed, and anyone in a 5-metre radius is wounded..." These informal notes were prepared in response for specific requests for information on landmine use. They are not intended to present a complete picture of landmine use.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG Articles & Papers)
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg96/landmine96.html
Date of entry/update: 26 November 2009

Title: Karen Human Rights Group Commentary #95-C4
Date of publication: 04 August 1995
Description/subject: "...SLORC continues to show no remorse whatsoever for its continually expanding program of civilian forced labour throughout Burma. Roads, railways, dams, army camps, tourist sites, an international airport, pagodas, schools - virtually everything which is built in rural Burma is now built and maintained with the forced labour of villagers, as well as their money and building materials. Forced labour as porters fuels the SLORC's military campaigns, while forced labour farming land confiscated by the military, digging fishponds, logging and sawing timber for local Battalions fills the pockets of SLORC military officers and SLORC money-laundering front companies such as Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. Even farming one's own land is more and more becoming a form of forced labour, as SLORC continues to increase rice quotas which farmers must hand over for pitiful prices. Even after a year like 1994, when record floods destroyed crops in much of the country, the quotas must be paid - if not, the farmer is arrested and the Army takes his land, only to resell it or set up yet another forced labour farm. 1995 has seen very small harvests, increased confiscation and looting of rice and money from the farmers, 40 million people struggling to avoid starvation, and SLORC agreeing to sell a million tonnes of rice to Russia for profit - rice which it has confiscated from village farmers for 50 Kyat a basket, or for nothing..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #95-C4)
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg95/khrg95c4.html
Date of entry/update: 22 November 2009