Fear of land confiscation increases in Thanbyuzayat Township as Military Training School reveals plans for expansion

March 1, 2019

HURFOM: As recently reported by HURFOM, residents of Wae Kalee village, Thanbyuzayat Township, have growing concerns about land confiscation upon discovering land-marking stones demarcating some 500 acres of local farmland, believed to be laid by forces training at the nearby Advanced Military Training School No. 4.

In the weeks since this report, the Advanced Military Training School has summoned Wae Kalee villagers to inform them of a planned expansion of the school’s training grounds, and under the guise of cooperation, has levied an arbitrary tax on villagers who continue to work on land that has been demarcated.

The military has already called to meet with plantation owners a number of times. The military wants to expand its training area, so they want to meet with plantation owners to talk about a land survey. The military already planted milestones in some plantations to demarcate the area they want to seize. School authorities said owners whose plantations fall within the demarcated area must cooperate with them…But plantation owners don’t wish to cooperate with the military. Even though they don’t want to cooperate, they don’t currently have a plan to file a report against the military [to the land management committee],” said Nai P—, a resident from Waethon Chaung village, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State.

The plantations affected are rubber plantations, all of which are currently in production, and thus hold promise of providing the military with a source of revenue upon seizure.

Half of our plantations are already included [within the demarcations made in January 2019]. If the military surveys our lands again, we will lose practically all of our land. The military uses the word ‘cooperation,’ but after they demarcate our land, we have to pay them a tax to work on our own land,” continued Nai P—.

Earlier this year, the Advanced Military Training School placed milestones on plantation land in Wae Kalee, Waethon Chaung, and Panga villages, continuing a pattern of military-driven land confiscation seen in Thanbyuzayat Township since 2001.

When I applied for a Land Use Certificate (LUC), I was told I wasn’t allowed to apply because my plantation falls within the ‘military area,’” said Nai P—.

Although the lands in question have yet to be confiscated, plans to expand the school’s training area, the arbitrary taxes recently levied on villagers, and preclusion from the LUC application process contradict the military’s reassurances that villagers simply “ignore the stones” as though they are not indicative of a looming seizure.

Between 2001 and 2004, approximately 1,000 acres of plantation lands surrounding the Wae Kalee military base were seized by the military. When considering that authorities tasked with protecting farmers’ land rights have proven to be supportive of military interests, and that past appeals for land rights from farmers in Thanbyuzayat have been altogether ignored by the central government, villagers in Wae Kalee fear that a forthcoming campaign of land confiscations is on the horizon.

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