Forced evictions as urban planning? Traces of colonial land control practices in Yangon, Myanmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


From 1852 to 1948, the British colonial government developed and relied heavily upon particular land control practices to enact forms of urban planning and population control designed to advance the economic development of Rangoon and maximize revenue for the colonial state. There are three main colonial land control policies with long-standing legacies: the annihilation of pre-conquest property rights, the intentional under-equipping and underservicing of Burman majority or outlying areas, and the use of forced evictions in urban development and city expansion. while these forms of state crime linked to the state organizational goal of land control began in the colonial period, their legacies continue in contemporary Yangon. However, the current social and structural issues in Yangon are not the fault of the British colonial government alone. Subsequent Burmese governments largely continued, borrowed from, or reverted to these state criminal practices at critical junctures to open further space for development, to change the demographic composition of particular areas or simply to control the population. Despite purported ideological differences, successive Burmese regimes have adopted urban planning and housing policies, especially with respect to the urban poor, that vary only slightly from the precedents set by the British colonial administration. Recent actions and pronouncements by the current government suggest that further forced evictions will occur and the National League for Democracy (NLD) will continue to follow colonial precedents in state policies towards forced evictions and the urban poor.


External organisations
  • King's College London
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography
  • Social Anthropology


  • Evictions, Land control, Myanmar, Property rights, Urban, Yangon
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-305
Number of pages28
JournalState Crime Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes