Victims of land confiscation continue to be ignored under new government

May 17, 2018

In 1989, the Burma Army’s South East Command confiscated nearly 200 acres of farmland in Hmaw Sin (1) Ward, Zay Yar Thiri Region, Mawlamyine Township, Mon State. It was widely known locally that the confiscated land was then leased to the owner of a livestock business.

The farmland, totaling 184.59 acres, had belonged to 25 farmers. In May 2013, South East Command gave some of the confiscated land back to five of the farmers. However, through being leased to this livestock business, the profits from the rest of the farmland continue to go into the military’s welfare fund, according to the farmers.

“The military confiscated our land and leased it to a livestock business [for the military welfare fund]. They’ve also leased some of our land to a business trading in bricks, sand, and stones,” said Daw Thidar Khin, a victim of the land confiscation.

The farmers told us that on February 9th 2017, the victims filed reports detailing the military’s private business leases to the State Counselor’s Office, to the Patron of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament), to Members of Parliament, and to the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Army and other high-ranking military officials.

“After reporting to the Commander-in-Chief, we went to South East Command on March 15th 2017, but we weren’t allowed to meet with [the military officials]. South East Command told us that the Commander-in-Chief wanted us to come back on April 25th. We went on that day but again they said they didn’t have time to meet us. So we came back empty-handed,” said Daw Mary Cho, another victim of the land confiscation.

As the victims of land confiscation were not allowed to meet with the officials from South East Command, they went to the Mon State Chief Minister, Dr. Aye Zan, to present their problems but again were not able to meet with him.

As the ownership status of their farmland is under “Customary Land Tenure”, the farmers wanted to discuss the confiscation with Dr. Aye Zan and find a way to solve their problems.

We went to meet with the Mon State Chief Minister to file a report. But his staff didn’t allow us to meet with him and told us just to leave our report. They just threw our report on the table but did nothing. We have attempted three times to meet with the Chief Minister, but each time we’re not allowed to meet with him, even though we know he’s in [his office],” said Daw Thidar Khin.

We also went to meet with the Mon State Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Transportation, and Communications, U Tun Htay, regarding the confiscated land. He demanded three requirements [official documents proving ownership] from us and said return of the land could only be possible after an investigation [by the Farmland Investigation Commission]. We’d already waited for the Farmland Investigation Commission for six years. We know they never do anything,” said Daw Mary Cho.

The farmers had previously attempted to regain their land in 2012 but were met with silence. They had tried meeting with the Land Records Department, the General Administration Department, and the Mon State Government but no department wanted to help them.

South East Command has not paid any compensation to the farmers and also has not allowed them to work on their farmland after the confiscation, according to the victims. Without compensation, the farmers cannot even pay for their children’s education.

We went for help to the government who were elected by our votes. But they did nothing [for us]. We’re realizing that we can’t rely on this government. Every time we go to see them, we aren’t allowed to meet with the Chief Minister, even though we know he’s in his office. Each time we come back empty-handed. It’s embarrassing,” a the victim of land confiscation.

Next, the farmers are planning to file a report to the President, U Win Myint. If there is still no redress, they plan to organize a protest.

 

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