Reject and Evict

With all of the celebrations over the NLD’s electoral victory, we get yet another reminder of the struggles Myanmar faces on the rule of law front. The Naypyitaw District Court rejected a petition filed by six residents who were sentenced to three months hard labor for refusing to leave their property after the Naypyitaw Development Committee ordered them to leave. According to DVB, the NDC allegedly plans to establish a gemstone enterprise in the area. The villagers already plan to appeal to the division-level court.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the sorts of conflicts that have come in the wake of economic development throughout Asia. In fact, these sorts of problems might prove even more intractable than the larger political stalemate, which seems to be easing. There really are only a few ways to resolve this tension. First would be to make the government more dependent upon its citizens (i.e., democratic) so officials have an electoral incentive not to seize assets. Second, convince government officials that protecting property rights and encouraging efficient investment in the land is more beneficial over the long-term than the short-term gains from seizure. Sadly, if history in Burma is any guide, elites often have very short time horizons regarding exhaustible natural resources such as gemstones.

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