Land Grabs impact rights of the most vulnerable rural populations
A rising trend for large-scale land acquisitions, or “land grabs” in Burma is increasingly impacting the human rights of the most vulnerable populations. Indigenous peoples are at particular risk, as their land rights are not safeguarded.
For example, States such as china, India , South Korea and the Gulf states are buying up land in developing countries to grow crops abroad, while private energy companies from UK, Germany and Sweden are securing land in sub- Saharan Africa for the production of biofuels.
In Sudan, companies from South Korea and UAE purchased 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land between them. According to The HRRA 2012, it is also reported that some investors have been given unrestricted access to water in the country, above that could negatively impact the livelihoods of local sudanese.
In Burma, since 1988, former military government grab farmlands and valuable mining areas to connected business cronies and military conglomerates. Until now, the widespread confiscation of land from small and poor farmers in rural Burma for development ventures and natural resource extraction projects still appears to be continuing unrestrained under the existing quasi-civilian government.
According to the Mizzima news on 5th February 2014, Deputy Defence Minister Major-General Kyaw Nyunt told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw that the military would cease confiscating land and would return a total of 150,000 acres to its owners.
Contradiction to the message, the military forcefully evicts “Tha Mee Ka Lay” villagers and demolishes the houses accusing them of illegally settling in the military-owned land even though villagers have long been staying there for several decades and for many generations. Villagers are now facing with degrading acts, no proper access to the adequate food and staying with full of fear.
A pregnant lady – Victim of Thameekalay village Photo: Nay Myo Zin
Proven records of Land grabbing around the world shown that Land grabbing is directly linked to the Food security which in turns the right to food. Researchers found that Food security is inextricably linked to developments in the water, energy, and land sectors. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), Countries where people lack adequate access to land rights, water and energy are among the worst performers.
Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier Special Rapporteur said that the right to food is the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.
According to the world Bank data, 80% of the majority of the population in Burma still relies on small farms for their livelihoods and Burma remains a mostly rural country. Farmers needs land, seeds, water and other resources to produce his or her own food. To purchase food, one needs adequate incomes.
The right to food therefore requires States to provide an enabling environment in which people can use their full potential to produce or procure adequate food for themselves and their families. Also it consequently requires States to ensure that wage policies or social safety nets enable citizens to realize their right to adequate food. The right to food is also a human right recognized under international law which protects the right of all human beings to feed themselves in dignity, either by producing their food or by purchasing it.
In Burma, Land grabbing by the government is unavoidably connected to the foreign investments. Foreign investments sometimes adversely affected the right of local communities to water, food, and adequate housing, and the right to gain a living.
Although investment play big role in poverty alleviation, on the other hand proper large-scale investments in farmland should be bind with appropriate regulation which will also lead to “win- win” solutions for all the stakeholders concerned.
Investors should ensure they contain safeguards that also benefit the rural poor by generating employment in the sector, developing rural infrastructure as well as by contributing to poverty reduction.
According to Burma’s 2012 farmland laws, the government owns all “private” land and farmers who protest seizures face severe penalties. The laws strip Burmese farmers of the right to property which is totally unfair, unjust and unethical.
Therefore it is very important that significant measures should be taken to ensure the protection of the vulnerable rural populations because of these investment. The most important fact after all is the State to amend the failing Land policy.
The military forcefully evicts “Tha Mee Ka Lay” villagers Photo: Eleven Media News
The HRRA 2012
Global Hunger Index (GHI)
The world Bank data
ISAAA Brief 44- 2012