Thanbyuzayat Farmers’ Letters of Appeal for Land Rights Ignored by Central Government

June 16, 2014

Thanbyuzayat, Mon State rubber plantation landowners have confirmed that the central government has repeatedly ignored their appeals regarding confiscated lands, which were penned and submitted last year through the Mon State Land Investigation Commission to the office of President Thein Sein in Naypyidaw, Burma’s capital city.

A local source from Thanbyuzayat, who requested to remain anonymous, used to assist in collecting land data and submitting farmers’ appeal letters to the Mon State Land Investigation Commission, and alleges that in 2013 landowners submitted two appeal letters to the office of President Thein Sein, and sent copies of the appeals to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Land Record and Survey Department, and the Ministry of Defense. However, landowners found that not one of the letters they submitted last year had reached Naypyidaw.

Thanbyuzayat resident, Nai Htun Taung, 48, attended a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, Thura Shwe Marn in Moulmein last month. Nai Htun Taung explained,

“During the meeting with Thura U Shwe Marn, we, the representatives of Mon rubber producing farmers, asked U Shwe Marn about the process of [the] appeal letters that we submitted to Naypyidaw last year, and he [U Shwe Marn] replied that they [the Naypyidaw Government Office] did not receive any appeal letters from Thanbyuzayat Township. So, it was quite clear that all letters from Thanbyuzayat disappeared, and it seems [they were] ignored by the upper level officials. That is why we have not heard any responses from them. Now, we decided to re-collect [information] on all lands which were arbitrarily seized over the past eight years by the Government Military Camps, Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 62, 32, and Artillery Regiment (AR) No. 315 in Thanbyuzayat Township areas.”

HURFOM field research confirms that in 2013 a total of eight appeal letters were submitted by a group of rubber landowners to government offices in Naypyidaw; in each letter, the farmers requested the return of their rubber land from the battalions, or fair compensation.

Farmers have also appealed to local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and Community Society Organizations (CSOs) to fulfill their capacity and apply their resources to continue seeking justice regarding unjust land confiscation in Thanbyuzayat Township.

U Nyein (not real name), a 62 year-old retired government servant from Thanbyuzayat, told HURFOM that, in his opinion, the Mon State Land Investigation Commission has no clear role and no power to handle the cases of land grabs committed by the government battalions in Thanbyuazyat Township. U Nyein also believes that the CBOs and CSOs, who focus specifically on land rights, should increase their activities by collaborating with land victims to fight for their rights and fulfill the need for justice in Mon State.

Nai Kyaw Naing (not real name), who works closely on the process of re-submitting the letters of appeal for Thanbyuzayat’s rubber farmers, agreed with the view of U Nyein, echoing that the group of farmers are in need of expertise, human resource, and guidance regarding Burma’s complicated land laws and the legal process, to aid in their struggle for land rights.

“Each land owner [has the] desire to receive his land from the military camps”, says Nai Kyaw Naing, “Some people want to receive their lands, and others want to receive fair compensation. However, this looks like trying to put a bell on the cat’s neck, because each case of land grabbing is directly linked with the Ministry of Defense, which is one of the most powerful ministries in the country. So, in order to fight [for] our farmers’ land rights, we [are in great] need [of] activists and expertise, as well as capacity. The laws on land are very complicated without legal familiarity, so, I would like to urge the CBOs and CSOs based in Mon State to help solve the problem of land grabbing, otherwise the process will end without any results.”

According to HURFOM data reports, approximately 560 acres of land has been confiscated in Thanbyuzayat Township since 2005/2006 to present. Most land was confiscated by Artillery regiment (AR) No. 315. The rest was seized by IB No. 62 and 32. Each landowner owned at least 25 acre of land. The most affected areas of land confiscation occurred in Pa-na, Wae Win Rai, and Wae Kalee Villages.

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