Understanding land relations in Myanmar’s multi-ethnic communities

Research is being conducted on understanding the interplay between identity and land rights in multi-ethnic communities in Myanmar. The research topic has been chosen by a young researcher studying under a scholarship from MRLG at The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) at Chiang Mai University.

The Master’s student, Ms. Ma Pyae Sone, hopes that her research in the field of identity-making and ethnicity will create opportunities to anchor policy debates to on-the-ground realities in the daily lives of multi-ethnic communities. “Indeed, identity in Myanmar has been essentially studied through the lens of reified ethnic categories and in a dialectic of minorities opposing the central Burmese government,” said Ma Pyae Sone. She continues that “However, to my knowledge, government-produced multi-ethnic areas have not been studied up to now, though it promises to shed new light on the adaptability of ethnic minorities to assert their rights to land and their territory.”

The young researcher expects that her research will help the Government and policy-makers take into consideration the multiplicity of claims and contexts in land policies and practices. “It is expected to feed policy debate in considering claims for land access, and land conflicts regarding these particular demographic context.  At the same time, this research will provide a picture of different ethnic groups’ practices to access land and territory in a multi-ethnic area without armed groups or violence and under the jurisdiction of central land government.”

At the time of publishing this article, Ma Pyae Sone is trying to keep motivated to conduct her field research in Htamanthi in the north of Sagaing Region and foothills of the Naga Hills, despite COVID-19 disruptions. Her fieldwork has been rescheduled month after month but she continues to persevere and is looking forward to complete her research in the coming months.

Ma Pyae Sone is one of 12 Master’s students—from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam—sponsored by MRLG. Since 2017, MRLG has collaborated with RCSD to train and develop future leaders and advocates through a two-year Master’s programme on land relations in the Mekong Region.

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