In 1997, No. 2 Shwe Bo Logistics Battalion confiscated over 3,000 acres of land, for a sugarcane plantation project, from Khaowntha, Paygyi, Htautsharai, and Ngetpyawtine villages, without providing any compensation in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act.
In 1997, No. 2 Shwe Bo Logistics Battalion confiscated over 3,000 acres of land, for a sugarcane plantation project, from Khaowntha, Paygyi, Htautsharai, and Ngetpyawtine villages, without providing any compensation in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act. The land was then handed over to, and contin-ues to be operated by, the 13th and 16th Light Infantry Battalions, under the 33rd Light Infantry Division. Then, in 1999, over 10,000 acres of land in the area was seized by Logistics Battalion and transferred to the Myanmar Economic Corporation for the establishment of a sugar production factory. Again, no compensation for the land was provided to the original owners. This made these confiscations nothing more than illegal land grabs.
In time, the farmers, finding that their land was still lying fallow, began to till the same. However, the military subsequently destroyed the farmer’s agricultural work during a “training exercise”, while simultaneously accusing the farmers of having destroyed the military’s own sugarcane fields. Since this time, the farmers have been on strike and have even held ploughing contests on the land.
The military officials tried to prosecute the farmers last year, but the township police station and court re-fused to file the case, as the farmers were able to provide legal documents proving ownership (e.g. tax records). However, after the President informed Parliament on July 2nd that the government could not return over 350,000 acres of confiscated land, as the Myanmar State was using the same, the military recommenced its efforts to prosecute the farmers.
The military has filed cases against the farmers for trespassing on the land – filing separate cases for each plot – and insisted that sentences be served consecutively. Additionally, on the orders of the military, farmers renting their land back from the military have been made to open cases against other farmers, accusing them of mischief. Before giving his first judgment the No.1 Kanbalu Township judge told the farmers that he was being forced to make his decisions by the military.
The judgments began being delivered in the second week of July, and over 65 farmers – including numerous elderly individuals and one woman – have been sent to different prisons across the country. Most of these victims have not even had the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Only 6 had full trials. Others are still awaiting their verdicts. Over 450 farmers of the area are being victimised in this way.
In Burma, during the military regime, the military confiscated farmland for different reasons and purposes. They conspired with companies owned by their cronies, sold the land to other businesses, and built military owned factories on the land. After new government reform, the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services ordered the land to be returned back to the original owners, but that order has been ignored and prosecution of the farmers continues (See AHRC-UAC-090-2014 and AHRC-UAC-049-2014).
A Farmland Investigation Commission report to the National Parliament states that the commission has received 26,371 complaint letters, from all regions and states of Myanmar. The National Parliament has to solve the problem in accordance with the commission report and give orders to the Administrative Committee to make a determination who the original owners are and ensure that the land is handed back. Likewise, Parliament must remain vigilant to guarantee that such a decision is enforced.
For more cases and issues concerning human rights in Burma, visit the AHRC’s country homepage: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma.