Farm­ers re­main camped on mil­i­tary’s dis­puted land

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­

MORE than two dozen res­i­dents of a vil­lage tract pur­port­edly owned by the mil­i­tary have dug their heels in. But after nine months through the cold, the rain and re­peated evic­tion or­ders, the farm­ers lay­ing claim to the con­tested 19-acre plot are be­gin­ning to lose hope that the im­passe will be re­solved.

Stak­ing out their own­er­ship, the 28 farm­ers set up makeshift tents on the plot in Man­dalay Re­gion’s Pyin Oo Lwin town­ship shortly after the Tat­madaw be­gan to try and fence it off.

“The liv­ing con­di­tions are not good at the camp but we have no choice be­cause we do not have any place to live. Some are in bad health be­cause it is rainy sea­son. There is no one who is will­ing to re­solve our land prob­lem in an ef­fec­tive way,” U Kyi Maung, who lost 4 acres of the Myauk Chan Su ward land, told The Myan­mar Times last week.

He added that the Man­dalay Re­gion chief min­is­ter had al­ready vis­ited the land, with no res­o­lu­tion forth­com­ing.

“We saw no changes,” said U Kyi Maung. “We do not know who we can de­pend on. We have also faced court cases.”

When the mil­i­tary be­gan fenc­ing the land in Jan­uary, res­i­dents pushed back and a clash broke out, re­sult­ing, ac­cord­ing to res­i­dents, in the de­struc­tion of crops, in­clud­ing wheat, gai lan (Chi­nese broc­coli), cau­li­flower and flower fields.

“It is not good to see a camp like this set up in Man­dalay Re­gion,” said Ko Thein Aung Myint, a worker and farmer af­fairs ac­tivist. “It is not good for the re­gion’s im­age. It is also mis­er­able be­cause the re­gional gov­ern­ment seems to have ne­glected this prob­lem, in­stead of find­ing a so­lu­tion. All of the re­gional cabi­net mem­bers as well as the chief min­is­ter vis­ited here. Why can they not re­solve it?”

In 2006, the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment con­fis­cated 13.1 acres in the area and an­other 5.88 acres the fol­low­ing year. Land con­fis­ca­tions are a fre­quent prob­lem in Pyin Oo Lwin and the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to come up with a so­lu­tion for dis­placed res­i­dents. The mil­i­tary of­fered farm­ers K100,000 per acre in com­pen­sa­tion but many re­fused. To­day, the land goes for K100 mil­lion to K300 mil­lion per acre.

Plans for a hous­ing project on the con­fis­cated land never ma­te­ri­alised so many farm­ers never left, reg­u­larly pay­ing taxes un­til at least 2011.

The Tat­madaw be­gan fenc­ing the area off, lit­tle by lit­tle, start­ing in 2014. Since then, they have sued 28 farm­ers for tres­pass­ing on the mil­i­tary land.

Four men who de­stroyed the mil­i­tary’s fence in Jan­uary 2016 were sen­tenced to a year in prison for van­dal­ism. Later that month, the mil­i­tary knocked down three homes and asked res­i­dents to re­lo­cate to a monastery, The Myan­mar Times re­ported.

The con­tro­ver­sial land is lo­cated near a villa ex­clu­sively con­structed for re­tired mil­i­tary se­nior of­fi­cials.

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Nearly 30 vil­lagers are hold­ing fort in Nyaung Ni vil­lage tract’s Myaut Gyan Su ward on land claimed by the Tat­madaw.

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