Large-Scale Farmland Rental and Absentee Investors: A Study of Local People’s Participation in the Face of Rapid Change in Myanmar

Soe Soe Htway1

1University Of Melbourne, Australia

Fuelled by the global food crisis in 2007-08, foreign investment in land has become more intensive in developing countries like Myanmar. Foreign investors make land deals in different forms, ranging from large-scale land acquisition, contract farming, and land rental. What is less well-known is what happens when access to farmland is constrained by foreign investors, how do local people respond, and what is the role of local people in land rental process? This presentation focuses on farmland rental for watermelon production by absentee foreigners in the dry zone of Myanmar. It examines the networks and relationships (between farmers, middlemen, and foreign investors) that enable foreign investment in farmland rental. In-depth interviews, key-informant interviews and observations were employed for qualitative data collection. The study finds that farmland rental by absentee investors is largely influenced by local residents and farmers, and that these relationships with local companies and brokers are key to understanding the current situation of farmland rental. As a result, this study highlights that the involvement of local people in farmland rentals needs to be taken in the consideration of policy implementations related to foreign investment in farmland rentals process in rural area of Myanmar.


Soe Soe is a PhD Candidate in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. Her research examines the impacts of Foreign Direct Investment at the local level, and the broader implications for rural development of Myanmar.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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