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July 18, 2013

Myanmar Farmers at Risk from Government Land Seizures

Watch In Race to Develop Myanmar, Government Grabs Farmland on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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In the Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma, farmers are facing the destruction of their family’s homeland as the government enters into numerous development contracts with large corporations in the race to develop the impoverished country. Farmlands that have been owned and farmed for generations will soon be high-tech food and textile factories.

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Part of the problem is that most Myanmar farmers do not own the deed to their inherited lands. This was never a problem until the late 1980s when a repressive dictatorships took farmlands for military use and to give to the elite. Landowners were offered little, if any, compensation for their farms, and often faced jail time for refusing to leave.

While the development of the farmland in Myanmar may mean lots of jobs and a surge of trade revenue, it is the farmers who will pay the biggest price. Roughly 70 percent of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods. The risk of insecurity from unresolved land issues is high.


“Powerful government leaders, their children and relatives, together with their business cronies, lawlessly confiscated a great deal of agricultural land for their own interests.” – Maung Maung Win

Warm-Up Questions:

1. Where is Myanmar?

2. If a person relies on agriculture for their livelihood, what might they grow for their job?

3. How is a dictatorship different from a democratic government?

Discussion Questions:

1. Why do people need proof of ownership of their home?

2. If farmers do not have legal proof that the land belongs to them, do they have the right to stay on it? Why or why not?

3. How would you react if your government forced you to leave your home? How would you handle the situation?

— Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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