‘The government’s land policy and the army’s land confiscation program are dependent on each other,’ says one political party leader.
By KANTARAWADDY TIMES
Karennni (Kayah) State-based ethnic political parties have called for a withdrawal of Burma’s Vacant, Fallow and Virgin (VFV) Land Management Law on the grounds that it is obstructing ethnic communities’ rights to their own land.
The Kayah State Democratic Party’s Sai Naing Naing Htwe said that by rejecting the law, his party is following precedent set by parties elsewhere in Burma.
“Political parties in other states have called for the withdrawal of the VFV law, but the Union government continues to implement it in ethnic states,” he told Kantarawaddy Times. “In my opinion, it affects regional stability and it violates the political rights of ethnic people.”
Khun Bee Htoo, chair of the Kayan National Party, also said that the law should be re-examined.
“They should consider putting something in the land law to protect indigenous people’s rights,” he said. “The government’s land policy and the army’s land confiscation program are dependent on each other. We ethnic people are being oppressed,” Khun Bee Htoo said.
The VFV law had a March deadline for locals to register their land with the government, lest it be deemed unused and the owners evicted or sentenced to prison time. Often unable to procure the necessary documents to prove ownership, locals have complained multiple non-indigenous people including military officials applied for ownership of more than 300 acres of land in villages in Hpruso Township.
Ethnic activists have echoed calls for the law to be suspended, pointing out it does not have a mechanism to formally recognize the customary land management systems the denote ownership and indigenous rights in ethnic states.
The VFV law was amended in September 2018. About one-third of the land in Burma is classified by the government as “vacant, fallow or virgin” land.