Displacement Solutions and the Norwegian Refugee Council have called for dialogue on the establishment of a new nationwide restitution programme that would return homes, land and properties to their rightful owners and its inclusion in the peace process. The new report Restitution in Myanmar: Building Lasting Peace, National Reconciliation and Economic Prosperity Through a Comprehensive Housing, Land and Property Restitution Programme explores both the progress made towards ending practices of land grabbing and forced displacement, as well as pointing out the still considerable gaps between law and policy in the country and international law and best practices.
Based on the extensive global restitution experiences of both organisations, the report takes the view that redressing housing, land and property abuses and creating pathways by which those affected can access legal remedies for these losses. Though some important strides have been made to address some manifestations of land grabbing by the NLD-led government, millions of people throughout the country and overseas, including refugees and IDPs, have not yet been able to formally reclaim their homes. The report argues that restitution must form a central component of the peace process and find a prominent place within any eventual peace agreements.
The report continues “To be consistent with international standards, the best practice of other States that have engaged in restitution and in the best interests of Myanmar, any restitution process must ensure, at a minimum, that everyone deserves, in accordance with the basic legal principle, an effective remedy for any acts of land confiscation determined by an independent, impartial and fair remedial body and commitments that such confiscation will not be repeated in the future.”
Recommendations are made towards dialogue on the establishment of a grassroots Myanmar Restitution Organisation to advocate for a new restitution law and programme, a renewed focus on restitution during peace negotiations, and that a process should begin now to debate restitution throughout the country, resulting in the drafting of relevant legislation, e.g., a new restitution law and claims mechanism, drawing on the restitution processes carried out in numerous other countries in recent decades.
The key author of the report, Scott Leckie, adds that “Despite historical political and economic reforms since 2011, Myanmar continues to face a series of seemingly intractable challenges. The peace process is viewed as increasingly stagnant, renewed human rights abuses and instability in Rakhine State have drawn the growing ire of the entire international community, political assassinations have been carried out and growing tensions between the NLD-led government and military are all too rapidly reducing the winds of hope that blew so strongly through the country just a year ago. There are concrete ways to get past at least some of these impasses, and we believe that implementing a national restitution programme could provide a constructive pathway to building stronger foundations for peace, reconciliation and democratic principles in the country.”
Prasant Naik, NRC Country Director in Myanmar, highlights the fact that “where Housing, Land and Property rights are at stake there needs to be effective remedies in place for displaced persons and other persons of concern. Ongoing efforts need to be strengthened in order to address the needs of those most vulnerable as an integral part of the peace process”.
Copies of the report are available here: Restitution in Myanmar and at www.nrc.no.