Kaw Taung District land disputes go unresolved

November 1, 2012

HURFOM:Township authorities continue to evade settlement for cases of land confiscation in Kaw Taung District, part of Tenasserim Region in southern Burma. Both U Nyan Sein, a landowner driven onto two of his original 8.52 acres, and farmer U Hla Tun who lost 15 acres just last year, have submitted letters that continue to be ignored by land officials.

According to U Hla Tun, “The authorities confiscated my 15 acres of land last year. Before our land was taken, we could farm and sell the vegetables we produced. Now, we face job shortages and cannot work. We want our land so we are doing what we can, but there will be nothing for us to do if they don’t give it back.”

The Farmland Law enacted by the Union Parliament on March 30th, 2012, further complicates issues of land confiscation. Under section 3 (d), the law states that “the Right to Use Farmland” means, “the State is the ultimate owner of all land and thus farmland is provided to develop agricultural products in accordance with prescribed conditions.” This clause allows the government to independently determine whether land’s agricultural output is adequately meeting the definition of “farmland,” and if not, the land becomes vulnerable to confiscation for other purposes.

Previously, regional land officials required farmers to present three proofs of ownership, two from adjacent neighbors and one from the village administration chief, in order to legitimately appeal for the return of their land. However, U Than Tun, the regional organizer of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), challenged this condition by pointing out the difficulties farmers faced when acquiring land rights testimonies from the very administration chiefs that were complicit in the confiscations. Officials acknowledged this contradiction and told U Than Tun that landowners now need only the two pieces of evidence from neighbors for land seizures after 1997.

According to U Than Tun, “I feel driven to say the township authorities are corrupt because they sold local land by claiming it was not owned by anyone, despite it passing legally in 1958 from the ruling Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League to the farmers who still hold the land grant documentation, and now they are not taking any action in response to the submitted letters.”

In recent months, HURFOM has received reports of three new cases of land confiscation in Tenasserim Region. Landowners and agricultural families continue to experience restrictions to their rights, and HURFOM asks the appropriate authorities to immediately and satisfactorily address instances of land confiscation to bring peace to the area.

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