Accepted Paper:

Forest administration encountering a swidden society in Burma / Myanmar  

Author:

Yukako Tani (Tohoku Gakuin University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper attempts to explain the consequences of legal pluralism in the forests of Burma / Myanmar, by describing the legal idea of land and property of the people, and the legal framework introduced by the colonial government which is now inherited by the present government.

Paper long abstract:

This paper attempts to explain the consequences of legal pluralism in the forest of Burma / Myanmar.

First, using observations in literatures as well as experiences from my own field works (in 1995 and 2001), I will describe the legal idea of land and property of the people since the 19th century. The colonial administrators observed a society which was basically 'swidden / nomadic'; population density was low, land was plenty, and investment on the land was small. People mentioned that 'first come first served' (Dama-Ooja) was still the principle for occupying a land or obtaining a resource.

Second, I will describe the legal framework introduced by the colonial government which is reflected in the various Acts and Rules regarding forests. 'Unused' land was categorised as Wastelands, and whenever it was necessary, wastelands were subsequently classified into other categories such as agricultural lands, Reserved Forests, and others. The clauses were basically designed to sort out the rights over a piece of forest, and define the ownership.

Finally, I will try to explain what is happening in the forests. Officially, all forests are governmental, and people have to obtain permits to utilize forests for certain purposes. However, the people are not aware of forest legislations, and forest administration is not effective throughout the country. As a consequence, people enter the forests according to their principles, in search of agricultural lands or valuable forest resources. Later, when some project starts in the forests, forest administration and the people encounter.

Panel G45
Land and property through a legal pluralism lens (IUAES Commission on Legal Pluralism)