Farm­ers seek re­turn of lands seized for Yada­nar­pon new town in Man­dalay

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com

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

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Farmer U Myint Aung speaks at a press con­fer­ence on July 24.

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