Farm­ers ac­cept re­turn of land in Man­dalay while oth­ers protest

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Land own­er­ship has long been a trou­ble­some is­sue in Myan­mar, with many farm­ers get­ting kicked off their land by com­pa­nies and the gov­ern­ment. Man­dalay saw some progress this week when Myan­mar Vice Pres­i­dent Henry Van Thio handed over 300 acres of farm­land in Ma­daya, Man­dalay back to the right­ful own­ers on July 12.

Ac­cord­ing to the Global New Light of Myan­mar, Henry Van Thio ex­pressed his de­light at be­ing able to re­turn the con­fis­cated land, pledg­ing quick and cor­rect so­lu­tions in re­turn­ing the con­fis­cated land to farm­ers. The land had been con­fis­cated from lo­cal farm­ers for the con­struc­tion project of hos­pi­tal for peo­ple with lep­rosy. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the Min­istry of Health and Sports con­fis­cated nearly 2,000 acres of land from farm­ers in Ma­daya Town­ship, and it would give up more than 1,300 acres. The min­istry said it would need over 600 acres of land for the con­struc­tion of the hos­pi­tal, the pa­per said.

But a dif­fer­ent story was be­ing played out on the same day. Hun­dreds of farm­ers were stag­ing a protest in Man­dalay against land seizures. At that point the protest had been go­ing on for a week. They were 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.

At the foot of Man­dalay hill, 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 told AFP.

“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.

Vice Pres­i­dent Henry Van Thio pre­sents the farm­land work per­mit card to lo­cal farmer in Ma­daya town­ship yes­ter­day. Photo: MNA

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