Large Scale Land Confiscation Persists with No Compensation in Thanbyuzayat Township

August 5, 2011

HURFOM: It has been reported by the residents in the Thanbyuzayat Township that Nay Pyi Taw government has unfairly confiscated over 1,000 acres of privately-owned rubber plantations, orchards and paddy lands. The interviews conducted with the plantation owners also reveal that the case has been ignored by the Nay Pyi Taw and the respective state government, despite attempts to petition the confiscation. Plantation owners say they are frustrated because many acres of their plantations have been taken over. And, despite having a new supposedly civilian-led national government, the government army continues to act without respect to the laws of the country.

Leaders at the Military Advanced Training School No.(4) have sought to justify the land seizures, citing their need for a new battalion/military base and/or to expand the school [Military Advanced Training School], based in Waekali village in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. In July 2011, they confiscated a total of over 1,000 acres of rubber plantations, which the previous owners, local farmers, heavily depend on for their livelihoods. According to a family member of a soldier at the Military Advanced Training School No.(4), this rubber plantation seizure had in fact been ordered by the former central government in 2009. However, planning and carrying out the national elections last year had put this order on hold temporarily. But with the elections passed, the program to confiscate the land in Thanbyuzayat Township has commenced.

In an interview conducted on July 29 with a Waekali resident and rubber plantation employee named Nai Kon Ka-lin, 36, the rubber plantations were seized by a Military Advanced Training School [No.(4)] and two other battalions, under command of the Southeast Military Regional Command, based in Moulmein City, Capital of Mon State.

“The rubber plantations taken over are located along the front of the Moulmein-Ye highway in Thanbyuzayat Township, spanning from Sat-kaw village entrance road to Sakhan Kyi village’s bridge. In total, it is as long as 13 miles, and it is as wide as 8 miles long, spanning from     Moulmein-Ye highway to Japanese hill. All rubber plantations within this 13 mile by 8 mile area have been taken over. This is the largest single area of land confiscated in this area.”

As Nai Kon-lin said, this land confiscation is the largest number of land acres taken over in Thanbyuzayat alone. Covering most of the over 1,000 acres are rubber trees that are in their productive term of 10-15 years, while 10 acres consist of cashew trees. And a remaining 100 acres are rice lands, which are adjacent to Sakhan Kyi village.

According to a Pa-gna villager who lost 5 acres of rubber plantation, Nai Thein-myint [not real name],55, the victims of land confiscation feel that the scale/amount of seized land is too large:

“Since we had known that they would take over the rubber plantations, we tried to sell our plantation. But, as the news spread out and there were flags set up in the front of our rubber plantations, we could not sell it. Until now, we are still going to our plantation even though it’s already been seized. Among the plantations taken over by the Military Advanced Training School, there are only a few owners who owned small scale plantations. Some lost as many as 100 acres of their rubber plantations. To give an example, Nai Ei-sol, 50, living in the quarter of Kyant Khaing Yae, Thanbyuzayat Town and Nai Thaung, 58, originally from Wal Ka-laung village, Thanbyuzayat Township, are the victims with the largest number of acres confiscated. Combined, they lost hundreds of acres of rubber plantations. In the plantation of Nai Thaung alone, there are hundreds of thousands of rubber trees.”

According to HURFOM’s gathered reports, of the overall list of names of rubber plantation owners, whose rubber plantations are seized by Waekali-based Military Advanced Training School, No.(4), most of them owned 1 plantation to 4 plantations. The majority of the victims of rubber plantation come from Pa-nga village (6 miles away), from Thanbyuzayat Town (3 miles away), and from Waekalaung village (7 miles away). In the mean time, HURFOM has collected accounts of names of over 40 victims of rubber plantation confiscation.

Knowing the case, a local source, 30, from Thanbyuzayat Town, recounted how the land owners had tried to sort out this plantation confiscation case legally:

“That’s last January, when the Burmese army and members of Land-survey department came to measure the land and set up the flags. Since then, the owners knew that they were going to take over the land. Some owners attempted to sell out their plantations. As far as I know, Nai Thaung, resident of Waekalaung village and Nai Ei Sol, resident of Thanbyuzayat Town, who got a very large scale of their plantations taken over, cooperated with other owners and sent petition letter to Nay Pyi Taw. That was in January, 2011. But, we heard that the Nay Pyi Taw government rejected this case. Since then, the plantation owners became aware that the government confiscated the rubber plantations.”

To get properly written in accordance with laws, she said she herself helped write the petition letter to Nay Pyi Taw, on behalf of a group of rubber plantation owners organized by, Nai Thaung and Nai Ei Sol.

According to a close source from the department of Subsidization and Transportation of SE Military Regional Command, there is more than one reason why the government confiscated the plantations in Thanbyuzayat Township. Aside from expanding the buildings of Military Advanced Training School, the source said the area includes Ta-kaw hill, where lead can be mined. Also, it is strategically located near the head quarter of Karen rebel, Brigade 6. So, it’s earmarked for the purpose of forming a rear unit for the special commando force No.(112) and setting up a temporary base for reserve units.

According to latest accounts that HURFOM has collected, the rubber plantations, orchards, and farms that are going to be taken over are already marked with signboards, saying “Army Land” [or Land belonging to Army], and flags. However, HURFOM observed that there is no negotiation [or discussion] for compensation or even notification to land owners.

“Like the former government, the new government does not follow the laws or policies drawn by them: they ignore the case of land confiscation unfairly committed by the army. They still give permission to take over the land. As it is the permission given from the government itself [to seize the land], the petition letter sent by us the land lost victims was definitely not helpful,” expressed by a Mon man living in Tha-mam quarter of Pa-gna village and whose 7-acre rubber plantation was taken over.

According to HURFOM’s collected data, combining the land taken over in 2000 by the former government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and the new government, the total amount of confiscated land is over 20,000 acres.

“We want it to be fair (justice). We do not want to lose like previous times, letting things go or be taken over. Now, there is a new government and there are new laws already being practiced [in the country]. Please, those who care about our society: come and help us get justice. We do not want to lose our land anymore.”

These are the wishes of Nai Kyaw Shwe, expressed on July, 29th 2011. He is a Mon rubber plantation owner from Htin-yuu village, who lost 5 acres of rubber plantation.

 

 

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