Thirteen farmers staged a protest in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw on Wednesday to demand compensation for farmlands seized in 2007 and 2015, seizures they said did not follow proper legal procedures.
The protesters said that in the Hteechaint Township in the Saigaing region of northwestern Myanmar in 2015, 31 farmers had 130 acres of lands confiscated to build the Great Wall sugar factory.
In 2007 in the same area, more than 3,000 acres held by 130 farmers were confiscated for the Takaung Nickle Mine. And in 2009, a businessman connected to the then ruling military junta seized 20 acres from 26 farmers without any compensation to build a jetty that never got completed.
“When they confiscated our lands in 2015, they said it was for a state project, but actually, it was for a private factory,” said Tin Ngwe, a farmer from Maunggone Village in Hteechaint township, who lost land for the sugar factory.
“They said they would pay us some money and they would confiscate our lands whether we accepted their money or not. They even threatened us that we will be arrested if we don’t let them work on these lands,” he told RFA.
The farmers were also miffed that lands confiscated for Great Wall sugar factory were worth 500,000 kyat per acre at the time, but they received only 150,000 kyat per acre. Factory fumes also sickened villagers who lived nearby.
“Our lands were confiscated in 2008-2009 for the Takaung Nickle Mine,” said Sein Min, also from Maunggone village.
“It was not done according to the 1894 Land Acquisition Act or the 1953 Land Acquisition Act. As it was in military government period, we could not say anything and the authorities didn’t let us say anything. It was not done according to law,” the farmer told RFA.
The military junta governed Myanmar, formerly called Burma, from a 1962 coup until 2011, when a quasi-democratic government took over. That government gave way to a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi last year.
Myint Hlaing, another Maunggone village farmer, said he turned out to protest Wednesday over the seizure of more than 20 acres from 26 farmers without any compensation to build a jetty.
“We asked for compensation for our lands as we depended on these lands to survive. We wanted about 500,000 kyat per acre, but they said they would give us nothing,” he told RFA.
“It was during General Than Shwe’s government term and the businessman who confiscated our lands is General Than Shwe’s son-in-law,” he said. Than Shwe was head of state from 1992-2011.
“They couldn’t do their project, but they fenced off that land. Although they are not doing anything on the land, we can’t work on them,” said Myint Hlaing, adding that the farmers faced punishment if they try to work the seized parcel.
The protesting farmers called on central government authorities to resolve their land problems, but said they hadn’t received a response as of late on Wednesday.
Reported by Win Naung Toe and Wai Mar Tun for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Paul Eckert.