NMSP’s land application has locals worried about development agenda

July 17, 2018

HURFOM: The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has applied to local authorities for permission to use land near Andin and Hnit Karote villages, Andin village track, Ye Township, Mon State. Local villagers are worried about the possible connections to investment projects.

The local villagers didn’t know that the NMSP had applied to use the land. We don’t know when they made the application. We found out via the Village Farmland Management Committee only after clerks from the Land Record Department came to do a survey. We’re worried that the NMSP will hand over the land to an investment company. The NMSP has connections with investment companies and it’s a cause of worry for the locals,” said Mi Dar Dar, a member of Andin Youth Group.

On June 12th, U Bo Bo, Deputy Chief Officer of Ye Township Agricultural Land Management and Statistics Committee, phoned U Myint Thein, a member of the Andin Farmland Management Committee, stating that he would like to do a land survey on June 13th at the NMSP’s proposed project area.

I told U Bo Bo that it wasn’t okay, as the village administrator wasn’t in the village at the time. But he replied that it didn’t matter whether the village administrator was in the village or not. He said he just wanted to know whether the land in the project area has owners or not, and that they had to file a report to the Mon State Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Committee within three days. He said the Village Farmland Management Committee had to accompany them when they did a land survey tomorrow [on June 13th],” said U Myint Thein.

The NMSP’s proposed land area is located near Andin village at Fields No. 1143 and 1144, and near Hnit Karote village at Field No. 1145. According to the Land Record Department, the estimated area of the fields near Andin is about 300 acres. That area is also known as Parlain Field. The area near Hnit Karote covers about 100 acres and is locally called Kyaut Tan Field.

According to the Land Record Department, Field No. 1145 has an owner, but Fields No. 1143 and 1144 are virgin land. Fields No. 1143 and 1144 aren’t actually 300 acres. They are just 70 or 80 acres. In 2016–17, the Andin community applied for land use in those areas to do a community mangrove forest project. But there was no reply,” said Mi Dar Dar.

The Chief Officer of the Ye Land Record Department told HURFOM that he did not know the exact date that the NMSP’s land proposal was made, but he was sure that the NMSP proposal came only after signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

Nai Win Hla, the head of NMSP’s Home Affairs Department, said, “It’s true that we’ve applied for land use in Andin. After signing the NCA, we filed the application to do local development projects. But at the moment, we haven’t decided what to do yet. As Andin is near the ocean, fish farming could be a possible project. But we aren’t sure yet. We haven’t just applied in Andin; we’ve also applied for land use in other villages.”

We knew that the NMSP is also involved in the Offshore Supply Base Project in Andin. Now the party has applied for land use too, locals don’t have too much trust in the party. There is lack of trust between the locals and the party,” said Mi Dar Dar.

The Offshore Supply Base planned for Andin has been embroiled in controversy. In January 2018, the Ye township general administrator forced two members of Andin village Farmland Management Committee to resign after they refused to rezone farmland for the development. The villagers’ and farmers’ representatives had criticized the lack of transparency by the company involved in the project.

According to the villagers, the local community wants the NMSP to explain the possible projects related to the land application, and to get the consent of villagers before starting the projects.

Nai Win Hla said, “The NMSP aims to take the land before the [investment] companies grab it. We’ve applied for land use in as many places as we can. This is our plan. But the NMSP can’t do projects alone so we have to cooperate with companies. If local people don’t accept the projects, we won’t do them. And we will make the companies who work with us fully accountable to local people.

The Andin community plans to re-apply for the use of Fields No. 1143 and 1144 as part of the community’s ongoing mangrove forest conservation project.

When implementing a project, we have to sacrifice some natural resources. But we must reduce the impacts as much as we can. If other investors have cooperated with the authorities and directly enter our region, we can’t stop them. But both the NMSP and the local villagers can negotiate with the companies who work with us. We will make companies fully accountable,” said Nai Win Hla.

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