For decades, the Burmese military seized land across Myanmar. In Eastern Shan province, they took Daw Mya’s land to plant teak trees for their private profit. Daw Mya tried to fight the land grab, submitting complaint letters to old parliament members and political parties, but she found her case ignored.

The government began to address these seizures in 2012, and by 2015 Daw Mya was working with a community paralegal from Namati’s partner organization, Than Lwin Thitsar. Together, they collected documents and data from the local land administration records department and the powerful General Administration Department. They knew the military controlled most of the formal and informal systems within Myanmar, and so they presented their case to the military directly. Long used to acting with impunity, the military rejected the complaint. After those negotiations failed, they wrote letters of complaint to every local body involved in land rights issues. Their letters led the body to open an investigation. In 2016, a military-controlled civilian body ruled in Daw Mya’s favor. After nearly 20 years, her land was returned to her.  

Daw Mya’s victory sparked investigations into eight more cases of land seizures in the area near the military base — all eight of which resulted in land returned to the rightful owners.

 

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