Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Customary Land in Myanmar: Current Status and the Way Forward
Myanmar has adopted a National Land Use Policy in 2016 which mandates the enactment of a comprehensive National Land Law. Once a National Land Law is passed, all other laws will have to be harmonized with its provisions. This new law will be critical for the future of Myanmar’s indigenous peoples, most of whom depend on land and natural resources for their livelihood.
Control over land and resources is also a key issue in the peace negotiations between the government of Myanmar and Ethnic Armed Groups, who demand the creation of a federal system of government. If and when a federal union becomes a reality and the federal states (the so-called ‘ethnic states’, where most of Myanmar’s indigenous peoples live) have authority over land and forests, national and state level policies and laws will also have to be harmonized.
There is an urgent need for Myanmar’s civil society to be prepared for advocacy and negotiations for the recognition and protection of customary land in the new National Land Law, and in state-level laws and policies in a future federal union.
Therefore, POINT has conducted this study, which undertook
• to critically review relevant existing laws with regards to indigenous peoples’ rights to customary land
• to make two case studies on the impact of the implementation of two laws, i.e. the Protection of Biodiversity and Protected Area Law and the Fallow and Vacant Management Law, on indigenous communities
• to review experiences with existing laws recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to land and resources in Cambodia and the Philippines
• to come up with concrete inputs to the formulation of provisions in the new National Land Law on the recognition and protection of customary land rights of indigenous peoples