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