Today's podcast addresses the question of land in Myanmar - Whose land belongs to whom? How safe is land against land grabbing? And what - after the recent involvement of both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court - should be done to ensure the housing, land and property rights that belong to everyone in Myanmar?
Much of today's discussion focuses on the incredible ease by which the powers that be are allowed, and indeed, facilitated by law, to grab land from ordinary people in the country. In all countries, the act of compulsorily acquiring land is highly regulated and something which rights-respecting governments are often reluctant to invoke except in exceptional circumstances when all other viable alternatives have been pursued. In general terms, the housing, land and property rights of affected persons and communities are often at the centre of proposed projects involving land acquisition and project evaluation processes, and active efforts are often undertaken by the relevant state authorities to avoid acquisition and resultant resettlement if at all possible, and when no other option exists, to ensure the full protection of relevant human rights norms. As this episode reveals, such points of view - even with the recent adoption in May 2019 of a new Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Law - are almost entirely absent from the both the legal framework and practice of those engaging in the massive land confiscation epoch through which Myanmar is now passing and which it has experienced for decades.
Indeed, if anything, measures to ensure that land confiscation in Myanmar is not carried out are almost universally absent when land is sought by others than those owning it, working it or residing upon it. Within the country, in fact, every act of land confiscation, acquisition, grabbing and expropriation in Myanmar can be assessed against what is allowed under international law and in the overwhelming majority of cases - including those that have taken place subsequent to the so-called political reform process underway since 2011, and following the 2015 win by the National League for Democracy - are structurally inconsistent with the norms expected of a country that has ratified human rights treaties protecting basic HLP rights. As we discuss, a recent report finds that the vast majority of all acts of land grabbing (including those acts of confiscation carried out under the Land Acquisition Act (1894), recently replaced by a new, but certainly not dramatically improved, land acquisition law) violate basic international norms governing these matters, and many constitute internationally wrongful acts.
Episode 16 begins with an examination of how land confiscation takes place in the country, the scale of the practice, the methods used, who actually benefits from these practices, and how the legal system of Myanmar actually promotes what are, inter alia, illegal acts under international law. For the remainder of the discussion, we outline a legal roadmap of constructive, specific and actionable recommendations designed to build an entirely new vision of housing, land and property rights in the country which is fundamentally different from how these issues are treated today in contemporary Myanmar.
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