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November 15, 2019

Land management and rule of law

  • To put an end to illegal squatting, including settlement in forest reserves and construction of infrastructure on farmlands, three stakeholders — those who make the laws, those who enforce them, and those who are obliged to follow the laws — need to cooperate with each other.
    It has been found that in some countries with no land disputes, the prescribed laws are effective and the people observe them.
    In our country, there is a need for harmonization between laws related to land management. The laws also need to be consistent with the National Land Use Policy, or NLUP.
    Those departmental officials who have the authority to resolve land disputes are obliged to have a clear understanding of the law and settle cases without bias as they play a role in implementing the rule of law.
    It is encouraging to see that the existing laws related to land management are being amended as part of efforts for drafting the National Land Law, which would guarantee sustainable land management, land rights, protect the rights of ethnic minority groups, settle land disputes, and encourage responsibility and accountability among investors.
    To ensure sustainable livelihoods and the development of the country, our land resources need to be managed and utilized properly. Only systematic utilization and management of land resources can improve the socio-economic condition of the people.
    Section-35 of the Farmland Law prohibits squatting on farmlands, and those who violate the law face imprisonment of six months to two years, or a fine of K300,000 to K500,000.
    Besides, farmland cannot be sold, pawned, or leased to foreigners without the permission of the State.
    However, the Central Farmland Management Committee, at the recommendation of the relevant township land management committee, can permit use of farmland for other purposes, in accordance with Section 30 of the Farmland Law.
    The farmland can be used for other purposes for development of urban or sub-urban areas, in accordance with the rules of the Farmland Law. This means, in order to use farmland for the development of urban or sub-urban areas, a town or village plan needs to be drawn first before applying for permission, and this needs to be coordinated with Nay Pyi Taw or the concerned region or state.
    We would like to add a word of caution here — carving out plots for housing on farmlands and their sale is in contravention of the Farmland Law, and the situation on the ground today demands effective action against such practices.

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