Pa-Nga residents reclaim land they lost to local army units

September 11, 2014

In 2004, Artillery Regiment No. 315, led by Lt. Colonel Tint Nine, seized roughly 250 acres of rubber plantation in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State, leaving the victims unemployed and forced to endure hardship in earning a livelihood. Most of the land seized belonged to Pa-Nga residents, and during an interview with HURFOM, victims expressed a strong desire to get their land back.

The land was confiscated in 2004, but the army unit allowed residents to continue working on their plantations if they paid a tax.

“We received a letter from the military in 2004. All peasants who received the letter visited the military and we were informed that the land belonged to the government, [and that] we had to pay a tax if we wanted to continue to tap rubber. Even though the rubber plants belonged to us, we agreed [to the military’s terms], as we wanted to work on our rubber plantations,” said 57-year-old Pa-Nga resident U Khin Maung, aka U Kyel.

The military steadily increased the tax year by year until, finally, the victims could not afford to pay the tax, and had to give up their land. In 2008, the military officially confiscated the land, and no plantation owner was allowed to work the plantations.

“We worked on our plantations for two years at a price of 120 kyat per plant. The next year the tax rose to 180 kyat per plant, but still, we worked on our plantations for another two years. After almost five years, the military increased the tax to 250 kyat per plant. We realized that the military [was] intentionally expel[ling] us from our plantation,” continued U Khin Maung.

During the interview, the victims revealed that they had invested everything they had into their plantations; the plantation was not only their workplace, but their lives. Moreover, the victims had a psychological attachment to their plantations.

“We had never hired a worker since we got this plantation, but worked the land ourselves. We took care of it carefully; it was time-consuming and costly. We invested the money we earned from other jobs, into our plantation. We had to clean the shrub, and it was exhausting and expensive. We also cultivated vegetables and sold them to earn money in order to buy fertilizer for the rubber trees. My son had to help [with the] plantation-work after returning home from school. [My livelihood], and my son’s education relied on our plantation so much. We had been working on our rubber plantation for 16 years,” said Daw Hla Aung, a 67-year-old Pa-Nga resident who lost 500 rubber plants to military confiscation.

In 2008, Artillery Regiment No. 315 planned to sell the confiscated land to local businessmen at current market price. Since then the plantation owners have been forced to endure many hardships; they have no one to rely on, and did not know how to deal with the problem.

Eventually, on August 5, 2013, the Pa-Nga residents collectively sent letters of appeal to the Nay Pyi Taw Land Investigation Commission, the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), and to members of parliament in Mon State. Even though they detailed their suffering and loss in the letters, the victims did not received any response from authorities.

The victims have a strong desire to get their land back, as they rely wholly on their land, and have psychological attachments to their plantations.

“We want to get out plantation back. We don’t want to be displaced to other places and we don’t want to accept any compensation, except [the return of our] plantation,” said U Khin Maung, who lost 2.3 acres of land to the army unit.

According to data collected by HURFOM throughout 2004 and 2005, about 250 acres of land, owned by nearly 70 residents, was confiscated in Thanbyuzayat Township by Artillery Regiment No. 315 and the Advance Military Training School No. 4.

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