Farmers in Kyiakmayaw Township seek justice for 2011 land confiscation

June 10, 2013

HURFOM: Farmers from Mae Kro village, Kyiakmayaw Township, Mon State have become some of the latest landowners to appeal to the government seeking justice for past land confiscations. This fact, and details of the original confiscations, were revealed by an April 2013 survey of 40 farmers from Mae Kro village, undertaken by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM).

In 2011 these farmers became the victims of a land confiscation by June Industry Co. Ltd., which was carried out as part of plans to build a cement factory in the area. Farmers spoke about how, with the full support of local administration, the company had confiscated between 2 to 49.5 acres from each farmer, paying only small amounts of compensation.

For these individuals, farming had been their profession and they were left struggling to survive. Nai Mg Aung related the hardship that he and his family faced after they lost their land, “After the company confiscated our land we let our son migrate to Thailand to [help us] start our life again. We have to wait for money from our son for our daily food. We cannot get rice from our field and our business is falling apart. Our main profession is growing rice paddy and beans, and this is the only job that we are experts at…We face so many problems. Dr. Nu Nu Win [from June Industry Co. Ltd.] gave us compensation of 50,000 Kyat per acre, which we received from the village administrator. We did not get compensation for the full 10 acres. The Kyiakmayaw Township administrator agreed with Dr. Nu Nu Win and he said that if we did not accept the money then the authorities would take our land without compensation. No one cares for us.”

When June Industry Co. Ltd confiscated the farmers’ land in 2011, the company claimed that the land was needed for a state project. To this day the farmers remain unsure whether the project was being run by the company or the government. However, during the land confiscation the notion of a “state project” was widely used to coerce farmers into relinquishing their land for minimal compensation.

Farmers have expressed particular frustration that, despite initial hopes that the new cement factory would at least create jobs and improve infrastructure in the area, no progress has been made on the project. Whilst the villagers have been left without land, the site remains unused by June Industry Co. Ltd.

Nai Mg Aun continued, “Now we do not know anything about our land. The authorities and the company did not do anything with the land that they took from us, and now there is a lot of grass in our field. We do not want to go and look at our land because now it is not relevant for us. We lost 10 acres of land, so now our family face difficulties. We sent a letter to our President and signed a petition for our land. We also hope that Mi Yin Chan and Mi Myint Than, who are members of parliament, will help us. We want to tell the company that if they have not built the factory then we want our land back. Now they are not doing anything with the land. Even if they build the factory then they should give us compensation at a fair price. The price of land is from 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 Kyat per acre, we would like to ask them to give us the right price.”

Nai Mg Aun is just one of many farmers who have recently made efforts to seek justice on the matter. Two years on from the confiscation, farmers are not giving up the fight for their land. Using new land laws, they have started to make a case that both the authorities and June Industry Co. Ltd. took unfair advantage of them in demanding that they give up their land. In addition to seeking legal advice, the farmers have called for assistance from members of parliament and have sent a letter appealing to the President’s office in Nay Pyi Taw.

Land owner Nai Tun Toung is another farmer fighting to get his land back. He told the Mon Pyi Human Rights Foundation, “We had 7.4 acres of fields. In March 2011 the authorities from Kyiakmayaw Township, our village administrator, Nai Kyaw Aye the village administrator from Ni Ton village, and Dr. Nu Nu Win from June Company came and threatened us for our land. Then they gave us a small compensation and took our land. We are not sure whether they will build the factory or not. After they took our land we had no job to do. So since last year we have grown rice paddy on our land without permission from them, even though we may face some problems from them. We don’t want to be silent.”

“They brought the authorities from Kyiakmayaw Township and the Land Record Department staff [here] and gave the reason that they were taking the land for a state project. We just know that they were using the law with farmers who do know about the law, so that they could make a profit. We have asked for help from people who know about the law, and we have sent a letter to the President to get our land back from the June Company. Whether they [the government] accept our letter or not we will grow paddy on our land for our daily food. We want to ask the Member of Parliament Mi Yin Chan from Kyiakmayaw Township to help us and protect our land. This 7 acres of land is our main living. If we have no fields then our only choice is to migrate to Thailand as a slave.”

The Mae Kro village farmers have made a number of demands. First, they have requested to be told exactly when June Industry Co. Ltd. intends to start the cement factory project. If the company has no such intentions then they have demanded that their land be returned to them, under the understanding that they will also return the money paid to them in compensation. However, if the company does have plans to initiate the project, the farmers have made it clear that justice will only be served if they are given fair compensation, to the amount of the land’s current value.

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