Forest Conversion for Commercial Agriculture and Associated Exports
Agro-conversion is considered to be the major cause of deforestation in Myanmar (Conservation International, undated). This is increasingly driven by large-scale, export-oriented agribusiness. Notably, there has been a recent surge in foreign interest in agricultural investments; as of July 2013, Forest Trends reported that leases covering 1.4 Mha had been issued since March 2012 (Woods 2013).
The main hotspots for new agricultural plantation developments are also two of the most heavily forested parts of the country: Kachin State (a target for biofuel crop and rubber plantations) and Tanintharyi Region (mostly palm oil and rubber investments) (ibid.).
As of 2013, according to Global Witness analysis, more than 2.1 Mha of land has been leased to companies for agricultural developments. By 2015 more than a quarter of that area had been developed into rubber plantations (Global Witness 2015).
Illegalities in Conversion
An investigation by Global Witness, published in 2015, found that in the northern Shan state the Myanmar military had collaborated with local governments and private companies to confiscate land from rural people. The land was then allocated to private companies and political cronies who developed rubber plantations (Global Witness 2015). Villagers received no compensation and have been cast further into poverty.
This summary was last updated in September 2016. For more recent information, please see individual news stories.