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The Intersection of Economic Development, Land, and Human Rights Law in Political Transitions: The Case of Burma


Over the past three years, Burma has begun a transition to democracy, triggering massive changes in a country led from the 1960s to 2011 by a repressive military government. The country is plagued with many serious problems from corruption and cronyism to grinding poverty to a lack of all kinds of infrastructure. One of the biggest problems in Burma today combines these three issues: land grabs. Burma has few legal protections for property rights and the wealthy military cronies act with impunity to achieve their financial goals and increase their business holdings. While by far not the only instances of land grabs in the country, this thesis looks at the Letpadaung copper mine and Myitsone dam and the surrounding events as case studies to analyze the tension between Burmese law and rights and economic development. This thesis uses three sources of law to analyze Burmese land rights and human rights: the Constitution, other domestic law, and international law. Many human rights groups are focused on the violence at the Letpadaung mine and suspension of the Myitsone dam as reflections on the new Burmese government's commitment, or lack thereof, to legal rights or human rights. The thesis looks at Burmese land grabs and Chinese involvement through a legal analysis and case studies. Burma's relationship with China is more complicated than many think, and Burma has many neighbors it should look to when improving land and property rights, economic development, and human rights to determine best practices.

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