Villagers pursue plantation land confiscated 20 years ago

October 11, 2013

HURFOM: Mon members of parliament have stepped in to assist villagers in a rubber-producing area of Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State, to appeal for the return of land confiscated almost 20 years ago. Residents reportedly received no compensation at the time of seizure and are eager to seek restitution for land that, by current price estimates, is valued at 6 million kyat per acre.

The village of Ka Loh Sa Kaw is comprised of roughly 130 households and numerous rubber plantation workers. In 1994, local wealthy man Nai Phaw allegedly confiscated more than 150 acres of land owned by 17 village residents. According to reports, Nai Phaw was not affiliated with any powerful political groups, but instead bribed the village administrator, Nai Kon Blai, to secure local government support for the confiscations.

Today, Nai Kon Blai is four years deceased and Nai Phaw, over 70 years old, still runs the patchwork of confiscated plots with more than 60 laborers working to tap the rubber trees.

Residents said they were afraid to challenge the village administrator at the time and later were unsure how to approach authorities about reclaiming the land, but that now Mon parliament members from Thanbyuzayat guided them to submit an appeal.

“When our lands were confiscated, the village administrator and Nai Phaw had power by relying on the [local] government so the villagers did not dare oppose them,” said Nai Tun Tin, 51, who lost 20 acres of his rubber plantation to Nai Phaw. “We had to give our land because we were weak to stand against them. If we had not been afraid, they would not have been able to take [our land]. We did not know how to speak out but now we know how and want to get our land back with help from Mon parliament members.”

Mon MP Nai Tun Ohn coordinated the submission of a letter of appeal four months ago on behalf of the 17 victims, but said a decision has yet to be handed down.

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