Farmers seek reform of seized lands scrutiny
VILLAGERS in Magwe Region’s Sinbaungwe township are calling for the reconstitution of committees in the township tasked with resolving seized land claims, saying their current memberships do not have locals’ approval.
A letter urging the shake-up was sent on August 11 to Magwe Region Chief Minister U Aung Moe Nyo, the regional Farmers, Workers and Youth Affairs Committee, and Sinbaungwe township’s General Administration Department.
U Paw Oo, chair of the Sinbaungwe township Farmers Network, said, “Those who can speak on behalf of the public ... should be involved in the committees at the village, township and national level. The submission calling for its reformation is due to the unsatisfactory practice of, for convenience sake, picking the 10-household group elders’ names to take part in it.”
In May, U Paw Oo told The Myanmar Times that farmers in Sinbaungwe township were reviving a campaign to recover more than 12,000 acres of paddy-growing land that was confiscated by the military in 1998. Protests in the township in 2014 saw thousands of demonstrators demand that they be allowed to continue to farm on land designated for a forest reserve more than 10 years ago.
U Paw Oo last week said the lack of public consultation in forming the ward- and village tract-level committees – and the absence farmers’ representatives – was particularly problematic given the importance of the committees to victims of land seizures seeking redress.
U Aung Kyaw Kyaw, an expert in farmland law and a Magwe Region Farmers Federation adviser, said, “Formation of the committees has been wrong every step of the way, according to paragraph 41[d] of the farmland policy [Myanmar’s national land-use policy], in which it is mentioned that every single step must involve farmers’ representatives. But there is no farmer representation ... so far. It is proof of what is wrong.”
President U Htin Kyaw established the Central Committee for Re-scrutinising Seized Farmlands and Other Lands in May, with regional, state-, township- and ward/village tract-level authorities instructed to follow suit.
– Translation by Emoon
A farmer walks near cultivated land in Sinbaungwe township in Magwe Region.