Farmers in Burma are increasingly organizing to push for recognition of expanded rights to land and how they use it. Despite the passage of the Farmland Law in 2012, grievances and conflicts over land remain widespread and farmers face continued restrictions of their farming choices.
Farmers participating in a two-day conference last month presented a list of demands to legislators, calling for an amendment of the 2012 Farmland Law. The farmers want an end to arrests of farmers protesting forceful expropriation of and eviction from their land, as well as fair compensation for any land takings. According to one member of the group quoted in Radio Free Asia, it is difficult to resolve land disputes in court, because farmers are “treated like criminals when businessmen or developers sue them. They feel that they are being discriminated against.”
Radio Free Asia reported that the group intends to draft a more comprehensive statement on “land grabbing” within 15 to 30 days and send copies to parliament, relevant government ministries, political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the international community.
Last month’s conference follows a “Farmer’s Forum” that took place earlier this year in Yangon, Burma to draw up a charter to submit to the government. The agreed-upon charter included rights to reasonable compensation for land expropriated by government or occupied by the military, to freely establish and register farmers’ associations, to have a voice in the amending of land laws, and the right to grow crops of their choosing.
USAID’s land tenure and climate change specialist, Peter Giampaoli observes, “The increasingly organized and public voice of farmers in Burma is an important step in raising awareness, developing alliances, and attracting the attention of government as they seek to expand and secure the land rights of smallholder farmers.”