Farmers And CSOs Demand Tatmadaw Return Farmland

By Network Media Group
Friday, June 5, 2020

Farmers and hundreds of civil society organisations (CSOs) called on the Tatmadaw to return over 2,000 acres of land. CSOs say the Army confiscated the land in southern Shan State during several decades.

Nang Bo, who is vice-chair of Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO), told NMG that Tatmadaw LIB-423 and LIB-424 stole some of the land in 1996. And then, over the years, it kept taking more. “They said the land was owned by the Army,” he explained.

Late last month, “soldiers blocked farmers, who were going to work in their fields, and seized their tractors,” says Nang Bo.

Police charged 70 farmers with trespassing on May 30 after LIB-423 and LIB-424 confiscated 900 acres in Hsihseng township, located in the Pa-O Self-Administered Region.

“Even though they said it was their land, they didn’t show their land ownership documents.” says Nang Bo.

More than 190 CSOs released a joint statement on June 3 calling for all land and farm equipment to be returned. It said the Burma Army has not been transparent about land seizures and has taken more than it claimed it needed. Further, the Army failed to complete the projects it stated it would.

LIB-423, LIB-424, artillery battalion of the Eastern Military Command and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, an Army-owned company, confiscated 2048.4 acres of farmland from 100 farmers in Pingsone and Nawng Kyaw village-tracts.

Khun Kyaw Naing, who’s working with farmers to try to get their land returned, told NMG with most of the confiscated land the farmers didn’t know it was taken until years after. At first the Tatmadaw took some land to build its army camp, he says, and told nearby villages to move, citing security concerns. But the army allowed the villagers to cultivate their old farms.

“The villagers thought the Army had only seized land near their camp. Unknown to them, their farmlands had also been confiscated.”

Nang Bo says the Burma Army does not respect customary land ownership.

The Tatmadaw claims the land falls under the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law (VFV).

Nang Bo says they “own the land plots under their traditional and customary land management system.”

“We’ve been cultivating these lands every year,” he says. “Even if they don’t allow it, we’re going to plant there. If we don’t plant, what are we going to eat?” he asked.

The farmers say that Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing Min, commander-in-chief of the Burma Army, said that all land not being used by the Army needs to be returned to farmers.

Farmers and CSOs want the Army to return this land without condition and to respect ethnic, traditional and customary land management. They also want the NLD government to give farmers official deeds for their farms, while pushing for Pa-O political leaders to find effective solutions to all land disputes and discuss customary land management during future peace talks.