Farmers in Twante township, on the south side of the Yangon river, have applied to the township’s Settlements and Land Records Department (SLRD) for action over what they call “the unjust confiscation of over 1,000 acres of land.”
A letter on Monday last week was sent to SLRD who said they had received the application and the farmers would be informed of a decision within two months.
“Relating to unjust confiscation over 1,000 acres of land in Twante township by the army government for 22 years, 66 farmers have applied legitimately to claim their own lands to Settlements and Land Records Department in Twante township on August 12,” U Myint Htay, head of SLRD, said.
However, he said the farmers must obey the rules and regulations laid down by the state.
“We will present the application to the relevant authorities step-by-step. It will take about two months to scrutinise and inspect the document, so we must ask the farmers to wait.”
According to one source who had knowledge of the matter, the land was confiscated 22 years ago in the villages of Shwe Myin Kin, Tha Man Gyi Kin, Ii Tauk Kin and Ka Lar Wa Kin, and currently the government as well as businesspeople are operating the farmland by renting the land to the farmers.
U Tun Kyi, a farmer from Tha Man Kgyi Kin, said he had 50 acres of land taken away from him and now he must do “odd jobs” in order to make a living.
“Some farmers are now without their farms and destitute. This is the first chance we have had to apply to hold our land again.”
While they are hopeful of a resolution, the farmers are willing to take further action if their application is unsuccessful, U Tun Kyi said.
“We will wait patiently. If nothing happens after two months, we will hold a press conference and will hold peaceful and lawful demonstrations as our farmlands were confiscated unjustly,” he said.
In the text submitted to SLRD, U Myo Than from Farmland and Farmer Affair Association said the army, private companies and other government departments have repossessed farmland unfairly.
According to the text, the total repossessed land nationwide is 6 million acres, with two-thirds of that being occupied by the army. However, state-run newspaper The New Light Of Myanmar acknowledged that 297,000 acres of land had been confiscated during the country’s military regime.
According to a survey by the Farmer’s Association, 53 percent of rural people in Myanmar are without farms, or “landless”.
The government has set up an investigation commission in relation to farmland seizures and investigations will be operated by the relevant state and regional authorities.
Recently, deputy union minister for Agriculture and Irrigation U Khin Zaw said the government is in the process of drafting legislation regarding the issue.
Land confiscation has been an ongoing issue in Myanmar ever since confiscations were legalised by the 1963 Land Acquisition Act, which nationalised land across the country for economic projects and was implemented by General Ne Win’s socialist government.
Issues continue as the country makes tentative steps towards democracy with cases of protesting farmers being arrested.
“There are many farmer demonstrators who are protesting to regain their land but many of these are arrested and prosecuted by the authorities,” said U Aung Kyi, a farmer from Day De Yi township in Ayeyarwady region.
“In recent times, nine farmers from Myaung Mya township have been questioned by the local authorities for trespassing on the occupied farms,” he said.
Last month, the military announced that it would return some of the land confiscated during the military rule, but many farmers feel that the measures have not gone far enough to appease citizens who lost much of their livelihood in unjust circumstances.