UMD 24: Fight or Flight

Land Grabbing in the Development of Mandalay’s International Airport and the Local Fight for Justice

Rural communities across Myanmar face land grabbing by state and military-led development projects. Land grabs displace communities and rob them of their livelihoods – including traditional agricultural practices and also leave lasting forms of subtle community dislocation. This research traces the experience of villagers who were moved off their land in the 90’s for Mandalay’s international airport, the adjoining highway and a Tatmadaw camp. This community has faced significant social and economic struggles in subsequent years, including large outward migration of young people. However, in the past decade villagers have had some limited success with the opening of land justice avenues to reclaim land, but remain frustrated at the lack of progress and the state’s unwillingness to fulfill the promise of justice. By documenting the tension between local village actors and political and bureaucratic figures with responsibility for the issue, this research hopes to shed some light on the local reality of pursuits of land justice amid the opaque legal-bureacratic land regime of “transitional” Myanmar.

Publication date: February 2022