Yebyu locals in ‘tough situation’ as Forest Department claims their land is in reserve forest areas

August 24, 2017

 

HURFOM: On July 5th 2017, Irrawaddy Green Towers Ltd. (IGT) — a local telecommunications company — demanded Mi Aye Aye pay back 900,000 kyat (US $662.30) in rentals fees they paid for her land after the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry declared her land within the reserve forest area of the Forest Department. Forty-seven-year-old Mi Aye Aye’s land is located in Ah Lel Sakhan village, Log Tie village tract, Kalane Aung sub-township, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division.

According to Mi Aye Aye, also known as Daw Myint, the dispute occurred after U San Win, the Deputy Director of the Tavoy District Forest Department, conducted a survey on the reserve forest area in Yebyu Township. She stated that after the Forest Department declared that her two plots of land were included in the reserve forest area, the company began demanding their rental fees back.

Both Mi Aye Aye and her husband Nai Min Thit Oo claim they bought these plots of land for 1.2 million kyat (US $883.00) from U San Aung, who lives in the same village, on May 31st 2014 in the presence of the village administration and other witnesses. They also signed a land contract during the sale.

As Mi Aye Aye has strong documentation that she is the real owner of these plots of land, U Aung Ye Thwe, an official from IGT, a company who are authorized to setup telecommunications towers in Yebyu, had agreed on May 23rd 2016 to rent her plots of land for 5.4 million kyat (US $3,973.99) for three years, equal to 150,000 kyat (US $110.39) per month.

The telecom company had rented our land for the price of 150,000 kyat per month and 5.4 million kyat over three years to setup ‘Telenor’ telecommunication towers. But, on July 6th the company informed us [via letter] that we had to pay them 900,000 kyat which is equal to the fees for six months – from December 30th 2016 to June 27th 2017. The company even threatened us with a lawsuit if we failed to pay back the charges. The July 6th letter from the company also stated that the company had ended the contract and won’t rent the land again in the future,” said Mi Aye Aye.

Similarly, six landowners from Log Tie and Yar Phuu village tracts have also been informed by IGT that their rental fees must be repaid to the company as their land plots are also included in the Hein Zel – Kalane Aung reserve forest area.

We’ve heard this news. I think the company is reclaiming the rental charges as they have to make a contract with us [the Forest Department]. If they want to setup telecom towers on land owned by the Forest Department, the company has to sign a contract with the department. After the Forest Department conducted a survey, it was found that local plantations are included in the reserve forest area. We’ve urged the plantation owners to sign a contract with the department. But even if they have a 30-year contract with the [Forest] Department, they can’t rent, pawn or sell their land. They can’t even use their land in [any] another way [than as stipulated in the contract]. We also explained the policy of the Forest Department to the company,” said U San Win, the Deputy Director of the Tavoy District Forest Department.

We were in debt so we had decided to rent our land out to the company in order to pay our debt. We bought this land with a contract. The company has reclaimed their money and the Forest Department also said our lands belong to them. We are in a tough situation [now],” said Mi Aye Aye.

According to U Khin Maung Oo, the Yar Phuu village administrator of Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, the land dispute has informally been reported to U Kyi Soe, the Deputy Speaker of Tenasserim Parliament.

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