Myanmar’s long-standing land-grab issue is now to receive international exposure, as human rights activists prepare to file a specimen case with the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity. Ko Zarni, a farmers’ rights defender and a volunteer with the International Federation for Human Rights, is organising the move.
By Chit Su | Friday, 27 March 2015
According to the report of Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’s land confiscation investigation commission, 6 million acres of farmland were confiscated throughout the country while under military rule, of which only 237,615 acres have been restored to the previous owners.
“If we can file a land dispute with the court, we believe the farmers could score a moral victory and recover some dignity. But we’re also afraid there may be retaliation,” said Ko Zarni. “We just want the government to give back the land or to give reasonable compensation to the farmers. This can be resolved peacefully.”
He said the international human rights federation, known by its French initials FIDH, was gathering data about land disputes all over the country prior to deciding which case should be filed. Practical difficulties include compiling exact and specific details of the seizures and the personal details of the farmers.
One possible case concerns the Myo Tha Industrial Garden. In 2011, the government seized 4000 hectares (10,000 acres) of land from farmers who say they were denied adequate compensation, Ko Zarni said.
He said it was the “most suitable” case to file first of those assessed because it was both recent and well-documented.
He said land-grab cases in conflict areas were not suitable for filing because of difficulties in gathering the necessary data.
U Nyan Zaw, a member of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, said land disputes were the most numerous cases submitted to the commission.