Farmers seek return of lands seized for Yadanarpon new town in Mandalay
FARMERS in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region, have taken demands for the return of their land to President U Htin Kyaw. They say the fields seized for the 2008 Yadanarpon new town project near their homes in Thone Taung village are now unused and should be given back to them.
The president has reportedly acknowledged receipt of their protest.
Most of the land was planted with coffee trees, perennial plants, mandarin orange plants and teak, the farmers said at a press conference this month.
“Since 1998, we worked on the lands under a contract with the Department of Forestry,” said farmer U Soe Tint. “After we were permitted to establish a community forest on 30 acres [12 hectares] in the Sakan Gyi Forest Reserve under the Forestry Law, we planted more than 7000 orange plants, teak and other perennial trees. When the orange plants blossomed and the perennial trees were ready for use, the department told us to move as these lands were included in Yadanarpon Cyber City Project area.”
“We invested more than K600 million [US$508,000], but we were paid only K50 million as crop compensation, shared out between us. We lost a lot. Now we see no activity at the project site. They should return the land to its original owners,” he told reporters.
Many perennial trees were destroyed when the project started, the farmers said.
The farmers said they were asked to clear forests for free and cultivate teak, pine and eucalyptus plantations under the previous government, before they were permitted to establish a community forest.
“Big trees can’t grow on this kind of land. We got permission to establish a 30-year community forest in 2004 by paying taxes. The forestry department helped us take care of the plants as well as springs in the forest,” said U Myint Aung, who lives in Thone Taung village.
“The new town project is not staterun, but private companies have constructed buildings. Now the land is abandoned and the springs are damaged,” he added.
Mandalay Region Chief Minister U Zaw Myint Maung said earlier this month that the regional government would form an investigation committee on seized land that would work with its Union-level counterpart. He said they had received more than 500 complaints about land problems.
“Some date back to 1965. Under our policy, we won’t consider any complaint before 1988, though farmers can still submit claims for their losses,” he said.
“There’s a lot of unused land left over from projects, which I think should be returned to its original owners under the 2012 Farmland Law. That would put an end to protests and court cases,” said U Zaw Myint Maung.
– Translation by Zar Zar Soe
Farmer U Myint Aung speaks at a press conference on July 24.