There are three land-related bills under debate in the parliament. Almost all three bills were submitted around October and November, 2017. They are Land Acquisition Bill, Farmland Bill and Vacant Land, Fallow Land and Virgin Land Bill. Except VFVL Bill, debates of two other bills are paused since the end of 2017 and were again picked up in the run up to this session of the parliament.
The bill has been approved by the upper house on 9 February, 2018, and now with the lower house Bill Committee who recently held hearings on the bill. The bill committee submitted the report on 23 May, 2018 and MPs are expected to propose amendments to the bill in coming few days as they’re invited to register to debate.
The upper house bill committee tried to impose some safeguards to potential land grabbing stemmed from the law by requiring authorities to make sure the land is not yet used by any farmers before granting permits.
The lower house bill committee suggests the house to accept amendments by the peers in the upper house and grant more authority to the central vacant land, fallow land and virgin land management committee with the final say on land use permits. It also suggests the inclusion of local farmer reps, civil society members and relevant experts in state and region committees. These recommendations and further amendments by individual MPs will be discussed in coming few days.
The bill was debated by the upper house on 31 July, 2017. The upper house approved the law on 18 August, 2018. It is now with the lower house Bill Committee. Recent hearings in past few weeks haven’t bring up the bill. As the Bill Committee of the lower house sometimes holds the hearings with interested MPs before the debate and vote in the plenary session, we would not probably see the bill debate in plenary session for a while.
Currently the lower house bill committee has proposed inclusion of up to three local farmer representatives in township or village-tract farmland management committees and granting of permits within seven days of decision by each level of committees.
Looking back at what happened to the bill in the upper house, we saw 26 MPs proposed amendments to the bill in just one day in a space of three hours. The upper house removed Section 40 of the proposed law which grants impunity to farmland management committees for their sincere implementation of the law. Some MPs proposed definition of alluvial land, crop land and inherited land which saw them integrated. MPs successfully inserted a clause that reserve three slots in township and village-tract level farmland management committees for local farmer representatives.
Land Acquisition Bill
The bill was submitted to the upper house by the parliamentary Peasants Committee on 30 October, 2018, as part of a string of land-related bills. It has never returned to the plenary session since then. The upper house Bill Committee heard the bill extensively for two days in as they prepared for the eight regular session. They held two more hearings just recently on 17 and 18 May. It seems like the process has started getting traction in the committee and the report is expected to table in the plenary session soon.
Problems So Far
All these land-related bills started at the upper house which passed the two of them already. Parliamentary debates show a great interest from MPs to engage in these pieces of legislations. MPs from the ruling party alone debated, it is odd enough to see other parties didn’t register their interest yet, leaving it up to NLD. We also found that there are only specific group of MPs who consistently engaged in land-related discussion.
In recent committee hearings, ministries and MPs are featured mostly, especially at this point of considering amendments to the bills seriously as they approach vote and approval in respective houses. Still there is no enough hearing of voices from outside the parliament.