Myanmar's farmers demand
law changes to fight land grabs
By Sai Tun Aung Lwin and Khin Khin Ei
Farmers in Myanmar on Tuesday drew up a list of 17 demands they plan to submit to legislators in a bid to amend the country's land laws and provide greater protection against forced evictions, a representative said.
They want an end to the arrest of farmers protesting against land grabs or of activists defending their cause, and propose that the government offer them outright compensation instead of compassionate aid for giving up their land.
The demands, which the farmers want incorporated in any bid to amend Myanmar's 2012 Land Law to better guard their interests, were proposed at a two-day conference organized by the 88
Generation student group's farmers' committee.
''We have released a 17-point statement based on the discussions,'' Myo Thant, a member of the group said on Tuesday following the conference at the Dhamma Peya Monastery in Yangon's Thingangunn township which focused on land grabs and administrative corruption.
''Some of the important points include: an end to the arrest and charging of farmers [involved in land disputes] and the people who are helping them, fair investigations of farmers' claims, and for authorities to stop using the term 'compassionate grant' instead of 'compensation' for grabbed land.''
Farmers also demanded that authorities compensate them directly for lost land, discuss plans with them first before proceeding with project implementation, and identify undeveloped land for them to farm in the event that their property is to be used for a project.
''The farmers have submitted what they want put into law for them,'' Myo Thant said. ''They have said that they are facing problems such as the inability to solve land disputes in court, even though they are treated like criminals when businessmen or developers sue them. They feel that they are being discriminated against.''
Myo Thant said that the farmers plan to write up a more comprehensive statement on land grabbing, which includes additional demands, within 15 to 30 days and send copies to parliament, relevant government ministries, political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the international community.
The farmers will also prepare a report about the country's laws on the use of developed and undeveloped land, which they will also submit to parliament, he said.
''The farmers are now more knowledgeable than before and they understand their rights,'' Myo Thant said. ''This is a good time to lead them towards a better life, but if we ignore them their situation will become much worse. It is important the government be willing to collaborate with its people.''
Reported by Sai Tun Aung Lwin and Khin Khin Ei for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.