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Lenya National Park (proposed) on Karen indigenous lands, Tanintharyi region, Myanmar

The planned Lenya National Park threatens Karen communities and internally displaced people, civil society groups say. Biodiversity conservation must be based on indigenous practices.


Plans to extend conservation zones in Tanintharyi region are currently made. The Lenya National Park located in the Tenasserim Hills in the South of Tanintharyi is one of a series of National Parks planned to be established over the coming years. However, a coalition of seven civil society groups, who call themselves the Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (CAT) have expressed severe concerns over the further expansion of top-down conservation zones, because they would threaten the rights of indigenous people and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the area [1]. Founded in 2014, the group has evaluated the development and potential impacts of the Lenya National Park. After two years of research, they released a report in early 2018, entitled “Our Forest, Our Life” [see 1] that received wide press coverage [e.g. 2,3,4].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lenya National Park (proposed) on Karen indigenous lands, Tanintharyi region, Myanmar
State or province:Tanintharyi
Location of conflict:Pyi Gi Man Daing sub.township, Bokpyin Township, Kawthaung District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to the report released by CAT [1], the Lenya National Park proposed in 2002 covers an area of 436,480 acres (ca. 177,000 ha). The extension proposed in 2004 covers an additional 265,600 acres (ca. 107,000 ha). Altogether, the proposed Lenya National Park would cover 702,080 acres (ca. 284,000 ha) [1, see also 5]. Currently, the plans have not been further developed and the governmental protection level is only partial (for example tree logging and large plantation concessions were granted by the government in the area) [5]. The Lenya National Park is classified by IUCN as a category II park [5].

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Project area:284,000 ha (Lenya National Park plus extension zone
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectunknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:at least 2,470 people directly affected
Start of the conflict:2002
Relevant government actors:Nature, Wildlife and Conservation Division (NWCD), which is a division of the Forest department. The forest department is part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC)
and others
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN )
Flora & Fauna International (FFI) (FFI) from United Kingdom - Project leader
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (CAT), an alliance of seven civil society groups: Tenasserim River & Indigenous People Networks (TRIP NET)
Community Sustainable Livelihood and Development (CSLD)
Tarkapaw Youth Group (TKP)
Candle Light (CL)
Southern Youth (SY)
Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
Tanintharyi Friends (TF)
and others
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Karen indigenous communities
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsPotential biodiversity loss due to loss of indigenous land use practices that are relevant for biodiversity [see 7,8,9]
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsInternally displaced people (IDPs) will be unable to return to their homelands
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Instead of the current centralized conservation model that fails to protect the rights of indigenous, the groups call for conservation alternatives led by indigenous communities themselves: “An Indigenous Community Conservation Area in Kamoethway and plans to establish the Salween Peace Park are examples of this alternative model that promotes a people-centered approach to conservation, supporting local people and institutions to strengthen traditional methods of forest protection. This bottom-up model of community-led conservation is proving extremely successful both in Tanintharyi and other parts of the globe, signalling an important paradigm shift for conservation. Within this model indigenous communities can be recognized as the owners, managers and protectors of resources with positive results for both human rights and biodiversity conservation” [1, page 6].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Currently, the plans for the Lenya Park would pose significant risk on Karen communities and entail a loss of indigenous practices and culture
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The Pinheiro Principles - Housing and property restitution in the context of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons
[click to view]

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
[click to view]

2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law
[click to view]

1992 Forest Law
[click to view]

1994 Protection of Wildlife and Conservation Natural Areas Law
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (2018) "Our Forest, Our Life: Protected Areas in Tanintharyi Region Must Respect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".

[5] Istituto Oikos and BANCA (2011) Myanmar Protected Areas: Context, Current Status and Challenges.
[click to view]

[7] Sobrevila, Claudia, 2008. "The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation - The Natural but Often Forgotten Partners" The World Bank, Washington DC, US
[click to view]

[8] Padoch, C., & Pinedo-Vasquez, M. (2010). Saving Slash-and-Burn to Save Biodiversity. Biotropica, 42(5), 550–552.
[click to view]

[9] Eduardo Brondizio, François-Michel Le Tourneau. (2016). Environmental governance for all. Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 352 (6291), pp.1272-1273
[click to view]

[2] Frontier Myanmar, 21 February 2018. "Tanintharyi locals say national park conservation plan threatening livelihoods" (accessed online 23.05.2018)
[click to view]

[3] MITV 21 February 2018. "“OUR FOREST, OUR LIFE”: REPORT LAUNCHED FOR THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE" . (accessed online 23.05.2018).
[click to view]

[4] Reuters, 21 February 2018 "Myanmar parks could stop thousands of Karen refugees returning home" (accessed online 23.05.2018)
[click to view]

[6] Flora & Fauna International Leaflet on the establishment of the Tanintharyi-Lenya Forest Corridor. (accessed online 23.05.2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

RFA News on the Proposed Lenya National Park in Tanintharyi Region (Youtube, Burmese)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:EJatlas Southeast Asia Team ("at"
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3464
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