While the political landscape in Burma has undergone noticeable shifts in recent months, human rights violations persist throughout the country, said a Chiang Mai-based rights group in a report on Thursday.
The Network for Human Rights Documentation– Burma (ND- Burma) said in its half-yearly report that issues relating to the civil war in ethnic areas, most notably forced labor, the use of child soldiers, torture and ill-treatment “remain grave concerns.”
Over the period of April-September 2012, ND-Burma said it had documented 114 cases of human rights violations at the hands of the USDP-led government and its supporters, which it said included 27 cases of forced labor, 26 cases of land confiscation and 21 cases of torture.
The report also highlighted the issue of land confiscation and forced relocation by the Burmese government.
“Recent events, including the arrests and beatings of farmers protesting the forced relocation of landowners from 66 villages for the Latpadaung copper mine, underline the ongoing human rights violations by the Burmese government,” said ND- Burma.
Quoting the Asian Human Rights Commission, the group said that land grabbing is a direct result of “the convergence of the military, government agents and business.”
It said that the Asian Legal Resource Centre has also noted the trend when it stated: “Almost daily, news media carry reports of people being forced out of their houses or losing agricultural land to state-backed projects, sometimes being offered paltry compensation, sometimes nothing.”
The 2012 Farmland Law presented an opportunity to address land seizures, ND- Burma said, however, according to the ALRC: “Far from reducing the prospects of land-grabbing, the Farmland Law opens the door to confiscation of agricultural land on any pretext associated with a state project or the ‘national interest.’”
ND- Burma noted that the formation of a Land Investigation Committee by the Burmese government has done little to alleviate concerns.
Ko Phoe Phyu, a lawyer and leading advocate against land-grabbing in Burma, reportedly expressed doubt in an interview with ND-Burma. “In the case of the Parliament’s [Land Investigation] committee, it can’t even decide whether or not the Union Government’s actions are in conformity with the law. I think they are trying to find another solution that doesn’t reflect the reality.”
ND- Burma is an umbrella group of Burma-related NGOs, youth groups and women’s groups based in Thailand. Its members include EarthRights International and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners- Burma, as well as Kachin, Chin, Palaung and Arakan NGOs.