Myan­mar farm­ers stage week-long protest over land grabs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of Myan­mar farm­ers en­tered a sev­enth day of protest over land grabs yes­ter­day, de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment re­turn seized fields and pro­tect them from a surge in pros­e­cu­tions over prop­erty dis­putes. Land own­er­ship is one of the most con­tentious is­sues in for­merly junta-run Myan­mar, where the army is ac­cused of ram­pantly con­fis­cat­ing land dur­ing its 50-year rule. Anger over land-grabs was a key fac­tor that helped Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democ­racy party sweep the first free elec­tions in gen­er­a­tions in 2015.

But lit­tle has been done to ad­dress farm­ers’ griev­ances since they took of­fice last year, while nearly 500 vil­lagers in cen­tral Mandalay re­gion alone are be­ing pros­e­cuted in cases re­lated to land-grab­bing. For the past week hun­dreds of farm­ers have been gath­ered in Mandalay city to protest the law­suits. At the foot of Mandalay hill yes­ter­day, some 300 farm­ers chanted and waved signs next to a ram­shackle makeshift camp where they have been liv­ing for the past seven days.

“We chose the new gov­ern­ment but they don’t do any­thing to de­fend the farm­ers,” protest leader Mg Soe said. “We know it’s hard for the gov­ern­ment to solve all the land prob­lems which fes­tered for years when the junta was in power. But now, even more farm­ers are fac­ing law­suits un­der the new gov­ern­ment.” Most land seizures date from the 1990s and early 2000s, when ac­tivists say mil­i­tary men and their cronies dis­placed thou­sands of vil­lagers and small-holder farm­ers.

Few vil­lagers have doc­u­ments to prove they have any rights to the land they farm, even if they have been till­ing the soil for gen­er­a­tions. “Cur­rently over 400 farm­ers in the re­gion are be­ing sued,” said Ko Lin, the chair of the Mandalay re­gional farm­ers as­so­ci­a­tion. “The re­gional gov­ern­ment should make this a pri­or­ity.” A Mandalay of­fi­cial de­clined to com­ment when con­tacted by AFP.—AFP

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