Land reforms, which include restitution and redistribution of land, often accompany political transitions, as new regimes attempt to break with the past by establishing new modes of governance. The political transition that began in Myanmar in 2011 provides one such example. In Myanmar's ‘rice bowl’, the Ayeyarwady Delta, widespread land confiscations during the 1990s and 2000s facilitated the establishment of large fish farms, often at the expense of smallholder cultivators who worked agricultural lands without formal use rights. Reforms initiated in 2011 appeared to offer the prospect of restitutive land justice for rural households affected by land confiscation, but this promise has been slow to materialize. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in the Delta, this paper analyzes the narratives and strategies deployed by different groups of state and societal actors advocating for and against land restitution, focusing on the competing uses of two concepts: legality and legitimacy. In doing so, we explore how state-society relations in Myanmar have been reworked through these processes of contestation, and examine possibilities for, and limits to, progressive land reform during political transition.

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Land Use Policy
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Mark, S., & Belton, B. (Ben). (2020). Breaking with the past? The politics of land restitution and the limits to restitutive justice in Myanmar. Land Use Policy, 94(May 2020). doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104503