Study shows need for better regulations of land allocation to agribusiness in Myanmar

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Study shows need for better regulations of land allocation to agribusiness in Myanmar


28 February 2017

New regulations for land concessions in Myanmar are needed. They should take into account impacts and conflicts associated with large scale land acquisitions. They should also identify new mechanisms to ensure future concessions are properly regulated, according to a new study conducted by the Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) project.

The study recommends that these regulations should be based on adequate recognition of customary tenure rights, as stated in the National Land Use Policy basic principles and recommendations. These principles need to be put into practice and integrated in the laws and regulations related to land management. Until this happens, it is recommended to establish a moratorium on new concessions to avoid creating new conflicts.

It also recommends that all claims received by the commission should be made public and that procedures should be transparent, to allow local communities and farmers organisations to take an active part in resolution of the conflict and return of lands.

The study was presented at two workshops held in Nay Pyi Taw; on February 14, 2017 at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation and on February 15 for parliamentary representatives of both Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyothar Hluttaw on the question of ‘Agri-Business Large Scale Land Acquisition in Myanmar: current situation and ways forward’.

The workshop at the parliament was co-organised by H.E. U Yan Lin and H.E. U Aung Kyi Nyunt, Chairpersons of the Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development Committee under respectively Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyothar Hluttaw. It involved participants from the Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development Committee, Farmers and Workers Affairs committee, Mineral Resources and Environmental Conservation Affairs Committee, Investment and Industrial Development Committee and the Legal Drafting Affairs committee.

The research, carried out by renowned agricultural specialist U San Thein and a team of experts, with the support of Mekong Region Land Governance project is based on a thorough analysis of records on vacant, fallow and virgin land allotted for mainly agri-business projects between 1992 and 2016, and also an analysis of the reports of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission on land confiscation and the return of land. The study also includes interview responses from key government staff in all concerned line ministries.

The main findings of the research are:

  • The total area of vacant, fallow and virgin land granted by the State (as concession) to agri-business companies or individual, organization and military in Myanmar represents 3,968,314 acres.
  • The states with more concessions on VFV land are: 1) Kachin 2) Sagaing 3) Tanintharyi 4) Ayeyarwady and 5) Magway (see map attached)
  • Very large concessions (> 500 acres)  represent only 13.6% of the total number of concession, but account for 87% of the area  granted as concessions (3,968,314 acres)
  • Most concessions were allocated between 2006 and 2011. Concession granting ceased in 2012, and has since started again at a much lower rate – but is picking up again (34,270 acres granted in 2016)
  • The area effectively cultivated or planted only represents 15% of the total area allocated. Evidence shows that larger concessions have lower levels of development than smaller ones. This sheds serious doubt about the potential of large scale concessions to effectively contribute to agricultural development.
  • A large number of concessions have been granted on areas which were partly or totally occupied or claimed by local farmers and communities, under customary tenure arrangements, but who are not recognized by the State, resulting in a high number of conflicts and complaints about land grabbing.
  • The decision of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission on Land Confiscation (established in 2012) to release information about its work to the public was a promising step towards a more accountable relationship between the authority of the State and the people of Myanmar. Based on the four reports released to the public, the Parliamentary Commission has received and studied 866 cases for a total of 467,749 acres.
  • But a deeper look at the data contained in these four reports show that detailed information about land grabs by the military are absent. Also, the Commission seems to have primarily targeted urban areas and urbanisation projects. By contrasting the locations of land confiscation cases with those of agro-industrial concessions as of 2011, the research has revealed that the Commission has not tackled some very critical land confiscation issues driven by these concessions.

For more details, please see the presentation to the parliamentary workshop “Agro-Business Large Scale Land Acquisition in Myanmar: current situation and ways forward” available at (

report “Transparency Under Scrutiny. Information Disclosure by the Parliamentary Land Investigation Commission in Myanmar “ available on MRLG website (

The Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) project is a project by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through its principal implementation agency GIZ, and the Luxembourg Government Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MFEA).