BURMA: Army prosecutes farmers for trespassing on their own land

In 1997-1998, Ponemawaddy Navy Headquarter, the 51 Infantry Battalion, and No. 6 Pathein Training Battalion confiscated 250 acres of land from farmers of Thabaung Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region.

In 1997-1998, Ponemawaddy Navy Headquarter, the 51 Infantry Battalion, and No. 6 Pathein Training Battalion confiscated 250 acres of land from farmers of Thabaung Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region. The original landowners have had no choice but to continue farming their land. However, in November 2013, Battalion Captains have prosecuted the landowners who have attempted to cultivate the land, under Penal Code Section 447/427.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services has since ordered the Ayeyarwaddy regional government to order the battalions to return the land to the original owners. The military shall relinquish the land to the owners if the land is not occupied for a special project, said the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services.

For its part, Ayeyarwady Regional Government has ordered the Battalions to transfer back the land as soon as possible but no farmers have received their land back. According to Ayeyarwady Regional Government, village leaders and Settlement and Land Records Department have “recorded” the land.

However, the farmers have not got back their land to date.

Battalions and Military Units under the Ministry of Defence did transfer the land to the General Administrative Department and the Settlement and Land Records Department. However, the Battalions, the Military Units, and the Settlement and Land Records Department in the Ayeyarwaddy Region have conspired to sell the land to businessmen, rather than ensure its return to the rightful owners.

According to the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, the 51 Infant Battalion from Myan Aung confiscated 50 acres of land, and the Ponemawaddy Navy Headquarter confiscated 200 acres; they need to relinquish 50 and 200 acres respectively. Additionally, according to the Commander-in-Chief, No. 6 Pathien Training Battalion confiscated 193.69 acres, and need to relinquish 52 acres. Farmers are using a total of 111 acres of this confiscated paddy land right now, and a total of 89 acres are lying fallow.

When they first grabbed the land, nearly two decades ago, army officers threatened the farmers not to step into the flooded areas of the paddy field. If they dared to enter the areas they would be arrested or shot, they were told. As a result of this threat, farmers stopped growing paddy on the land. The land became uncultivated and abandoned. Once this land became virtual jungle, the Settlement and Land Records Department and a Senior Administrative Officer decided to mark it as vacant, fallow, and virgin land; subsequently they transferred the land to the army units.

When the land was confiscated, the authorities involved did not follow the law of state ownership of agricultural land; rather, the land was grabbed at gunpoint. There was no compensation for the land either. Later, the Battalions and Units in fact offered tenancy to the farmers to grow paddy on the land; they enriched themselves on the misery of the farmers in this way. Despite the new land law having countermanded the tenant land law, the farmers still had to utilize the land for paddy.

Now the military units have prosecuted the farmers, the owners of the land, by accusing them of trespassing and damaging their land. There are several cases faced by the farmers; they cannot work; and they spend whatever money and time they have to go to trial. The cases are ongoing, and the farmers have no respite despite it being rainy season, i.e. the time to grow paddy.


Please write a letter to the following government authorities to urge them to dismiss the case against farmers and return their land back quickly. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, Burma is referred to by its official name, Myanmar.

Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, on the independence of judges and lawyers, on the Right to Food, and the regional office of the OHCHR in Bangkok, calling for their interventions into this matter.

SOURCE www.humanrights.asia