By Nang Mya Nadi
Farmers in Magwe division’s Pauk township, who had 30,000 acres of farmland confiscated by the army, are reaching out to the president for a second time and asking Thein Sein to help settle the dispute.
In late 2008, the Burmese Army’s Defence Products Factory-24 under the Western Regional Military Command seized more than 30,000 acres of land from residents in about a dozen villages near Pauk.
Farmers said the army’s factory paid them 5,000 Kyat (around $5.5 USD) per an acre then rented the land back to group where they were able to work as tenants under a one-year contract.
One of the villagers, Tin Tin Kyu said they were ordered by the factor’s deputy-chief Kyaw Myint Naing to sign the contract; however, many of the farmers refused.
Last October, the villagers sent their first letter to president Thein Sein to look into the case, which prompted a group of military officials from Naypyidaw to visit the area.
The officials reportedly promised to help negotiate the dispute to prevent the farmers from being relocated but were unable to stop one of the Lehbinkine village from being relocated.
On 6 July, the group wrote another letter to the president and spoke with representatives from the Union Solidarity and Development Party in the township.
The party’s local parliamentary representative Khin Maung Nyo agreed to raise the issue in the parliament.
“Previously U Tin Htut of Zalun constituency submitted a proposal in the parliament to bring justice to land confiscations,” said Khin Maung Nyo. “I’ve [informed the parliament] to add this to the discussion regarding land confiscations in villages.”
While Burma’s nascent reforms have ushered in ceasefires, the participation of opposition parties and a drop in western sanctions, the country’s political developments have also given more leeway to farmers seeking redresses for confiscated property.
On 16 July, farmers took to the streets of Rangoon in the first officially approved protests since the military coup in 1962.