88 Generation Group Visits Land Confiscation Victims

September 10, 2014

The 88 Generation Students Group visited Ye Town, Mon State on August 17, 2014, to meet with land confiscation victims living in affected areas in Ye Township. The group is visiting various villages in order to investigate and seek justice for local people who have had their lands confiscated by the military and foreign investors.

Ye residents Nai Akkar and Ma Win Thain Lwor represented Ye Township in helping the 88 Generation Students Group hold the meeting, which was led by 88 Generation Students Group’s Ko Tun Myint Aung, and accompanied by Ko Tow Tow, Ko Min Han, Ko Soe Moe, and Ko Tu.

At 10:00am on August 18th, the group prepared to meet with victims of unjust land confiscation from local villages, including Ah Baw, Ah Sin, Kyaung Ywa, Ka Law Kyi, and Ah Ru Taung. Nearly 40 victims attended the meeting, along with government police units and special-intelligence police, who joined the workshop to collect information.

Throughout the meeting, victims shared their experiences regarding the circumstances surrounding the confiscation of their lands, ways in which they have tried to seek justice for unjust confiscation, descriptions of appeal letters they have sent to various organizations, various organizations that have visited with them to collect information on the situation, how they have dealt with hardship after their lands were taken away, and how they have had to struggle to earn a living.

According to landowners, some land was confiscated by the military, while the rest was seized by individuals in cooperation with authorities. Many land owners have also received suggestions from various organizations regarding their land rights. The 88 Generation Students Group promised the victims that they will submit the information collected during this meeting to ethnic armed groups, media groups, the government, and international countries.

Victims whose land has been confiscated by the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 316 invited the 88 Generation Students Group to visit Ka Law Kyi Village, Ye Township, and meet with them; 40 Ka Law Kyi residents attended the meeting, which was held at 9:30 am on August 19th at the Bayar Reh Mehm monastery in Ka Law Kyi.

Ka Law Kyi villagers informed the 88 Generation Group that only military from LIB No. 316 can submit appeal letters calling for the return of land to victims to upper-level authorities, and must first collect detailed information including the victim’s name, year of confiscation, number of acres confiscated, and cause of confiscation.

Victims reported that landowners are forced to pay tax to work on their plantations after LIB No. 316 had seized the land, and landowners were beaten and tortured if the military found them trying to cut something to use or eat from their plantation.

After meeting with Ka Law Kyi villagers, the 88 Generation Students Group met with land confiscation victims in Koe Mile Village. About 100 people joined the meeting, wherein Koe Mile residents explained that most of their land had been confiscated by foreign investors, who acted in collaboration with the authorities. Residents indicated that businessmen accused and charged landowners for visiting their plantations after confiscation; seven Koe Mile residents are currently being brought up on such charges in Ye Township.

During the meeting, Koe Mile Village youth groups, teachers, and local residents also appealed to the group with a request to have their mother language taught at government schools, as other villages are granted the right to have Mon language education at government schools.

After the meeting in Koe Mile, the 88 Generation Students Group met with villagers in Kyaung Ywa Village, where victims said that their land had only been confiscated by LIB No. 591 and No. 587, with each troop having confiscated about 400 acres.

According to HURFOM’s field reporter who traveled with the 88 Generation Group, “the victims stated that some people went crazy after their land was seized by the military, or by the investor. They have to struggle for their family ever since. Some parents could not afford school fees; some people are homeless as they are penniless to build a house. Old people have to rely on their children after their land was taken away. [Victims] shared their feelings in the meeting, and how they faced hardship. People who have land grant documents gave their documents to the 88 Generation Students Group; [those] who do not have land grant documents explained why they did not. Land owners were paid 100 kyat per acre when the military initiated confiscations. The military [threatened landowners] that they would go to jail if they refused to accept [compensation of] 100 kyat per acre. The land victims [were told they] would be tortured and beaten or charged money if they were seen in the area of confiscation without permission from the perpetrators”.

Landowners requested that the 88 Generation Students Group aid in helping find an explanation regarding land grant documents, as the victims do not know the process of land rights. The group gave villagers a cartoon book, written in Mon, explaining land rights. The 88 Generation Students Group is currently continuing their journey to analyze the process of land confiscation in affected areas throughout Thanbyuzayat and Mudon Townships.

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