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ARE THE ODDS FOR JUSTICE ‘STACKED AGAINST’ THEM? Challenges and Opportunities to Securing Land Claims by Smallholder Farmers in Myanmar SiuSue Mark Pyoe.

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Presentation on theme: "ARE THE ODDS FOR JUSTICE ‘STACKED AGAINST’ THEM? Challenges and Opportunities to Securing Land Claims by Smallholder Farmers in Myanmar SiuSue Mark Pyoe."— Presentation transcript:

1 ARE THE ODDS FOR JUSTICE ‘STACKED AGAINST’ THEM? Challenges and Opportunities to Securing Land Claims by Smallholder Farmers in Myanmar SiuSue Mark Pyoe Pin Programme (DFID-SIDA Governance Initiative) 24 th March 2015



4 Introduction In 2012, GoM passed Farmland Law & Vacant, Fallow, Virgin (VFV) Land Law—formalized land market. right to sell, exchange, access credit, inherit, lease De Soto (2000): strong legally-enforceable institution of property rights to transform “dead capital” private property titles to create competitive land rental and sales market attributes the state a more central role-- the regulator to enhance efficiency

5 Introduction Economistic model problematic for all areas Only applies where there is a land market—where communities are familiar with state law In these areas, at least two major obstacles to achieving efficient and equitable outcomes First: multiple regimes have created “stacked laws” (Roquas 2002) Second: history of patron-clientelism (Scott 1972) mediates access to land & legal justice

6 Question In Myanmar, a country with a ‘stacked’ legal framework, how do smallholder farmers engage with the law to strengthen legitimacy of their claims to land against confiscations?

7 A few caveats First, not a reified concept of the “rule of law” Second, does not negate the presence of a wide range of other ‘responses being employed by farmers--outside of the legal system Thirdly, offensive ‘resistance’ or defensive ‘protection’ mindset (see Forsyth 2009)

8 Legacy of ‘Stacked Laws’ Legal pluralism ‘Stack’: what appears to be a chaotic system, a degree of structure the way the way people can tease out and strategically employ separate elements of such a system not only formal state laws to which people will invoke, but also non-state norms

9 Four regimes British colonial rule (1824-1948): 1876 Lower Burma Land and Revenue Act 1894 Land Acquisition Act (still active) Post-independence period (1948-1962) 1947 (1974, 2008) Constitution: State is ultimate owner of land 1953 Land Nationalization Act “land to the tiller” policy sales, mortgage of land were not allowed in practice, system that resembled formal law created “10-kyat” contracts, that resemble state-sanctioned contracts

10 Four regimes Military rule (1962-2010) Burmese Way to Socialism: nationalism, socialism and Buddhism 1963 Tenancy Law - farmers as tenants to state 1963 Farmer’s Rights Protection Law no seizure of land for debts, except by state 1991 “Wasteland Instructions”

11 Current legal framework By 2012, already at least 73 active laws (GoM is aware) 2008 Constitution (Conditional) Land use rights, but also protection of private property 2012 Farmland Law: land market through land-use registration and certification more guidance for calculating compensation In a closed-loop, decisions may not be appealed to a court of law 2012 VFV Law: regulates lease of “vacant,” “fallow” or “virgin” land to alternative use

12 Impact of Stacked Law 2012 Farmland Law revoked some of the older laws, but some farmers still invoke them 1963 Tenancy Law, state may have given tenancy rights to farmers on land that was never registered as farmland Now, threatened with confiscation by someone bearing a land lease certificate under the 2012 VFV Law, these farmers claim their rights under the old laws (and often alongside the belief that time gives them ‘customary’ right)

13 Legacy of Patron-Clientelism context of a society built on patron-client relationships From 1962 to 2010, the military state engaged in rent- seeking behavior, as patron to a network of clients many given land under the 1991 “Wasteland Instructions” 2014, Parliamentary Land Commission Land concessions violated 1894 Land Acquisition Act ½ million acres to be returned

14 Legacy of Patron-Clientelism Break down of mutually-beneficial patron-client relationships Local elites creating new relations of patronage Laws do not prioritize awarding of titles to smallholders Material incentives have led to local elites’ selective application of the 2012 Farmland and VFV Laws Criminalization of farmers

15 Farmers engage with laws: Uncommon Fear, little information, high costs, limited availability of lawyers Cases subsidized by legal aid No known recent court cases that have resulted in farmers getting land back; at best, increased compensation Most returns from Parliamentary Land Commission’s and out of court negotiations Nonetheless, growing number of legal cases that play out in a complex political play

16 Evolving Judiciary In reform, judges are more independent than before High profile cases: judges more hesitant to take bribes more capable judges being assigned Suspect decisions are sometimes questioned Public defenders shy away from appearing political Attempt to show weaknesses in implementation of these laws and weaknesses in the laws

17 Starts with Rightful Resistance “Critique within the hegemony” (O’ Brien 1996) Communities go through “approved channels and use a regime’s policies and legitimating myths to justify their defiance” “instruments of domination which facilitate control can be turned to new purposes …of entitlement, inclusion, and empowerment”

18 Legal Tactics within “Stacked Laws” Legal arguments that derive from a selective use of both new and old laws, even revoked ones For example: Farmers argue that old confiscations broke the still active 1894 Land Acquisition Act But 1894 law does not give compensation guidance, farmers then retroactively apply the guidance in the 2012 Farmland Law back to the year of confiscation in order to calculate compensation amounts land cases draw media and civil society groups, who amplify local communities’ demands for justice.

19 Thank you for your attention!

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