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].

See more...
Basic Data
NameLenya National Park (proposed) on Karen indigenous lands, Tanintharyi region, Myanmar
SitePyi 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 CommoditiesLand
Ecosystem Services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording 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].

The aim is to establish large parts of the Lenya forest areas as Protected Area (PA), which are exclusionary zones, designated under the 1994 Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law. According to the law, local communities have no access rights to protected areas. While some buffer zones are foreseen in the plans that would allow for some subsistence resource uses, they are rarely implemented in practice, states the report, and often remain ambiguous. People caught conducting traditional subsistence activities within protected areas would have to face fines or are arrested [see 1].

Currently there is only one protected area in Tanintharyi region, the Tanintharyi Nature Reserve (170,000 ha). Adding the Lenya National Park and the Tanintharyi National Park would cover an additional area of 1,3 million acres (ca. 526,000 ha) [1]. Further plans for a “Tanintharyi Nature Corridor connecting these areas would occupy a total of 2.5 million acres, constituting almost a quarter of all land in Tanintharyi region” [1].

Clear funding sources and investment size is unknown. According to a leaflet by Flora & Fauna International (FFI) and IUCN, 1-15 million EUR were provided by IUCN to “secure the Tanintharyi-Lenya-Forest Corridor for tiger numbers to recover and grow” [6]. The proposed Lenya National Park and the extension zone are part of this wildlife corridor [6].
Project Area (in hectares)284,000 ha (Lenya National Park plus extension zone
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationat least 2,470 people directly affected
Start Date2002
Relevant government actorsNature, 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 Financial InstitutionsIUCN
Flora & Fauna International (FFI) (FFI) from United Kingdom - Project leader
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersConservation 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
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
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 MobilizationCommunity-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
OtherPotential 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-economic 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
OtherInternally displaced people (IDPs) will be unable to return to their homelands
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesInstead 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 as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Currently, the plans for the Lenya Park would pose significant risk on Karen communities and entail a loss of indigenous practices and culture
Sources and Materials

1992 Forest Law
[click to view]

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

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

2012 Environmental Conservation Law
[click to view]

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


[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]

Media Links

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

Other Documents

Cover of the civil society report Source: Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (2018) "Our Forest, Our Life: Protected Areas in Tanintharyi Region Must Respect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".
[click to view]

Map of proposed Wildlife Corridor, including the Lenya National Park and Extension zone Source: https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/import/downloads/ithcp_project_profile_1338_ffi.pdf
[click to view]

Villages in and at the border of the Lenya National Park Source: Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (2018) "Our Forest, Our Life: Protected Areas in Tanintharyi Region Must Respect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".
[click to view]

Karen villager walking to his orchard in the Proposed Lenya National Park Source: Conservation Alliance of Tanawthari (2018) "Our Forest, Our Life: Protected Areas in Tanintharyi Region Must Respect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".
[click to view]

Report launch in Yangon Source and credit: http://www.myanmaritv.com/news/%E2%80%9Cour-forest-our-life%E2%80%9D-report-launched-rights-indigenous-people
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEJatlas Southeast Asia Team (ejatlas.asia"at"gmail.com)
Last update29/05/2018