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Ethnic farmers prefer communal land, says CSO report

A file photo of a farmers protest a land grab by ploughing the confiscated land Padaung township, Prome district. (PHOTO: DVB)

A majority of ethnic farmers in Burma would prefer to share community land rather than own their title deed to a plot, according to the findings of the Ethnic Community Development Forum (ECDF).

According to a report released on Tuesday titled Our Customary Lands, ECDF conducted a survey over two years among 1,200 rural families in Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon and Shan states.

“According to our findings, the villagers traditionally used a communal land system in which the land is not titled to a sole individual but to the community at large, who thereby share the profits,” said said ECDF spokesperson Mi Ka Moon. The [system] introduced by the government is harming this community spirit.

Naw Paw Moe, an ECDF member from Karenni State, said the Burmese army has “consistently and rampantly” confiscated land in her region.

“In [state capital] Loikaw, the Tatmadaw [government forces] seized lands to make way for a cement factory,” she said. “In effect, they took away all the villagers’ livelihoods.”

Mi Ka Moon said that establishing a federal system in Burma may help protect customary land management systems.

“Under the current constitution, we have a centralised system, with no input from the local populations,” she said. But under a federal system, power would be shared between the regional and state governments.”

The ECDF, founded in 2004, is made up of seven ethnic-based civil society organisations that focus on community development in Burma’s ethnic regions.