Transparency Under Scrutiny: Information Disclosure by the Parliamentary Land Investigation Commission in Myanmar

TitleTransparency Under Scrutiny: Information Disclosure by the Parliamentary Land Investigation Commission in Myanmar
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSan Thein U, Pyae_Sone K, Diepart J-C
Paginationi-iii, 1-10
Key themesDispossession-grabbing, FDI

WEBSITE ABSTRACT: This case study presents a country-wide quantitative analysis of a Parliamentary Commission established in 2012 in Myanmar to examine ‘land grab’ cases considered and to propose solutions towards releasing the land to its original owners, in most cases smallholder farming families. The study analyses the information contained in four reports released to the public, but also aims to elicit information they do not reveal. First of all, the paper suggests the commission has failed to provide detailed information about land grabs by the military. Second, the Commission seems to have targeted urban areas and urbanization projects and has underestimated land grab cases in rural areas. Third, by contrasting the locations of land confiscation cases with those of agro-industrial concessions as of 2011, the paper also shows how the Commission has evaded, rather than tackled, some very critical land confiscation issues driven by these concessions. Eventually, the authors argue for a mechanism that gathers, manages and releases relevant data on land confiscation and redistribution in a manner that allows for full disclosure.


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Overall relevance: 

Myanmar has a long history of land confiscation led by powerful groups including government, military and companies, leading to the dispossession of smallholders. Recently there have been violent dispossessions resulting in public anger on the issue. Therefore, in 2012 the Investigation Commission for the Prevention of Public Disenfranchisements Connected to the Confiscation of Farmland and Other Lands (also known as Parliamentary Land Investigation Commission or PLIC) was established by the Myanmar government. Unfortunately it has failed to provide detailed information about land grabs by the military, and mostly focuses on urbanization projects. The PLIC was supposed to receive complaints and make recommendations about how to return land to owners based on four reports supported by the government. But because the PLIC only focuses on urbanization projects this means that it does not deal with critical land confiscation issues.

Key Themes: 
  • FDI and land access: economic land concessions, contract farming, short term and long term renting - Smallholders lose their land because of land grabbing by powerful companies or military-led, urban development and industrialization projects. However apart from important information about cases scrutinized by the Commission and agro-industrial concessions, there is not much specific information about FDI in this article, because it lacks information from the reports/case studies. The report maps a large number of agro-industrial concessions in the country but is not able to clearly link these to specific FDI sources or projects.
  • Land dispossession/land grabbing - The number of households who were actually affected was more significant, as were the percent of military driven land confiscations but they are not included in the decision of the computation. The report is more focused on urbanization projects, while some databases on different processes and procedures of the commission give more detail. The number of the cases actually resolved was also limited in comparison with the number of the case scrutinized.
Research basis: 

The PLIC was assigned to create a structured dataset of the commission reports. Examination of the cases was considered regarding the confiscation of land and to propose solutions for the original owners, most of whom are smallholder farming families. But the most significant types of land confiscation were not considered in the report, which says much about omitted or unavailable data, including a lack of clear methodology and how to elicit unrevealed information, especially how the commission avoided agro-industrial concessions that may affect many farmers. They are more focused on data contained in the reports including location, year of land confiscation, people responsible, land area and affected farmers. More information is needed on gaps and silences, an urban bias and the geography of evasion. (Provided by Outhevy Vongmany)