Farmers from different townships in the Ayeyarwaddy Division said that have planned an “All Townships Demonstration” if the authorities do not take necessary actions to resolve “Land Grab” issues within three months. Three months is the time period during which the authorities have promised to resolve the issue. However, the authorities have not shown any remarkable progress on the issue so far.
More than 30 farmers spoke on behalf of all the farmers from Mawlamyaing Kyun Township, War Khe Ma Township, Bogalay Township and Kyeik Latt Townships in Ayeyarwaddy Division at the press conference held at the Myanmar Journalists Network office on 5th August.
U Maung Maung Aye, Chairperson of the United Farmers Association said that more than four thousand farmers will demonstrate if no tangible action is taken by the stipulated time. The Mawlamyaing Kyun administrative officer gave assurance in July that “they would resolve this issue within 3 months.” Consequently, 'plough protest' in grabbed land have been temporarily suspended. The farmers have staged 'plough protest' i.e. to work on their grabbed farmland without permit as a form of protest against the authorities.
“We demonstrated with around 1000 farmers on 15th July. We will organize an “All Townships Demonstration” with about 4000 farmers the situation remains unchanged”, said U Maung Maung Aye.
'Plough protests' against land grabbing were made by the farmers in different townships with an aim to get their land back. The farmers said that the protests were temporarily suspended. Thereafter, 20 farmers from 4 Townships and Civil Society organizations, who support the farmers in the land grabbing issue, had a discussion on 15th July. The authorities assured the farmers that the grabbed land will be returned to their rightful owners.
“Many farmers were accused. The farmers had to go to court innumerable times and the expenses for these court trips are very high. The farmers are facing a hard time since the court has rescheduled hearings each time the farmers go to the court. The farmers want to get their land back as soon as possible”, said U Bo Thein, a farmer from Maw Kyun Township.
The farmers have been accused under section 447 (Punishment for Criminal – Trespassing) and Section 427 (commit mischief thereby causing loss or damage) for continuing to farm on land grabbed from them.
The farmers believe that about 500 acres of land have been grabbed from the farmers since 1993. About 30 farmers who attended the Press Conference are victims of land grab.
“My whole family has been accused. We want our land back! Almost everyone in our entire village have been accused and our land taken away from us”, said a farmer who attended the Press Conference.
There were taken away for various purposes by the Military, its different Departments and Companies in the former Junta. But currently, farmers are being paid compensation for some the grabbed land.
The Investigation Commission for Grabbed Land which includes Hluttaw Representatives was formed in August 2012 to investigate grabbed land.
The Investigation Commission spoke to the Hluttaw on 8th July and stated that the State Government and Division Government should bear the responsibility of returning grabbed land to the farmers The chairperson of the commission also stated that 63 billion kyats (about $63 million) have been obtained for compensation through the negotiation by the Hluttaw Commission between Farmers whose land were grabbed and the Companies that grabbed the land.
U Tin Htut, Chairperson of the Commission submitted a proposal to “resolve the grabbed land issue soon as possible” and the proposal has been approved.