TSYO Reports on Land Grabbing, Shweli Dam Impacts

The Ta-ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) is pleased to announce the release of two new reports on ongoing earth rights violations in Ta-ang Region of Shan State.

The first, ‘Grabbing Land: Destructive Developments in Ta’ang Region’ estimates that 63% of farming families in the Ta’ang area of Northern Shan State have lost their land to confiscation by the Burmese military. The land has been taken to be used for housing and training for the military or to generate additional income for the troops. Significant areas of land are also confiscated for large scale development projects that use the extraction of natural resources to generate foreign investment. Such projects include the Shweli Hydropower Dam and the Shwe Oil and Gas Pipeline Projects. More communities and families are set to lose their land to planned future development projects.

The report exposes the devastating impacts of land confiscation in the Ta’ang area; people have lost their lands, homes and livelihoods and have received inadequate or no compensation for their losses. The report further illustrates the ways in which contradictory Burmese land laws are manipulated to enable the Burmese government to oppress and abuse Ta’ang people and grab their land at will, as well as government failures to adhere to the international legal frameworks on housing, land and property rights in Burma.

The fact-finding for the report was conducted with the support of the Daniel C. Clark Memorial Fund (DCMF) under the EarthRights Alumni Small Grants Program. With the support of a small grant, fieldworkers carried out research in the affected area; interviewing farmers and local people who were victims of land confiscation and providing a platform to the victims to express their loss and suffering as a result of the loss of land.

The report was released on 22 November 2011 with a press conference in Mae Sot. A copy of the press release and report are available online at:
www.palaungland.org/eng/2011/11/22/63-of-families-lose-land-and-livelihoods-to-destructive-development-and-land-grabs-in-the-ta%E2%80%99ang-area/

The second report, ‘Shweli Under Siege’, details the impacts of the Burmese government’s plans to proceed with two mega dams on Burma’s Shweli River, a major tributary of the Irrawaddy.  The dams will forcibly displace 3,000 people and directly impact over 15,000. Over 700 acres of local farmlands and community forest areas have already been seized for construction of roads and establishment of military camps near the dam sites.

The new dams are part of a series along the Shweli River which will export electricity to China. The construction of Dam 1, completed in 2008, resulted in forced labor and dramatic militarization of local communities for Ta’ang villagers, who received no electricity or benefits from the project. Dams 2 and 3 will flood over 30,000 acres of tea plantations, rice farms, and forests. Five villages have already been ordered to relocate in preparation for construction of Dam 3. The area has also experienced escalated conflict between the Burmese army and ethnic resistance forces, with large numbers of soldiers deployed to secure the dam sites.

The report was released on 29 November 2011 with a press conference in Chiang Mai. A copy of the press release and report are available online at: www.palaungland.org/eng/2011/11/29/new-shweli-dams-in-burma-war-zone-to-displace-thousands/