Magwe farmers demand return of land seized in the 1990s
FARMERS from Magwe Region have formally submitted complaints, for a third time this year, demanding the return of acreage seized by the Ministry of Defence in the late 1990s.
Their complaints, which have been submitted to Vice President U Henry Van Thio, Magwe’s chief minister and a number of parliamentary committees, relate to 12,700 acres of farmland in Sinbaungwe township between 1998-99.
During this time, the farmers’ land was acquired by the Ministry of Defence for the construction of factories for the state-owned Myanmar Defence Products Industries, better known as Ka Pa Sa. Farmers were offered negligible compensation, approximately equivalent to US$0.01 per acre.
“Once the farmlands were seized, farmers were told to come to take compensation of K12 an acre. Some took it but some didn’t,” said farmer U Myo Tint from Ma Gyi Pin Pu village.
The aggrieved farmers are seeking the return of lands that was never utilised, or fair compensation.
“We want to take back the unused lands. For land which is being used, we want compensation that is calculated according to the land’s current value,” U Myo Tint said.
“There are unused lands left over from the weapons factory so we want the authorities to give it back to us. And then we also want a Form 7 [Land Use Certificate],” said another farmer, U Aung San, from Sar Ya Pay village.
The farmers have submitted numerous complaints to successive governments about the land seizures, but so far they seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
In August 2012, nearly 500 farmers from the 13 villages demanded the return of their farmlands by submitting letters to former President U Thein Sein and 34 relevant departments. The former government took no action to resolve their claims.
The National League for Democracyled government has been similarly unresponsive to the farmers’ complaints so far, despite the party’s campaign pledge to resolve all land-grab issues.
According to U Paw Oo, Farmers Network chair for the Baw Myint village area, the two formal complaints submitted by farmers in May and August of this year have received no response from the government.
“That’s why we have submitted our complaint again for a third time,” he said.
An expert in farmland law and adviser to the Magwe Region Farmers Federation, U Aung Kyaw Kyaw was critical of the government’s handling of the claims.
“The farmland law states that a special team, headed by a regional executive, shall investigate farmland issues which concern the public. But such a special team has not been formed,” he said. “Fair compensation should be paid to the farmers for land being for military facilities and unused land should be returned to them.”
– Translation by Zar Zar Soe