The Myanmar Times | 17 December 2012
A government commission formed to identify farmland ownership disputes will bring over 300 cases of land grabs to the attention of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw before the next session begins, members said last week.
On Thursday, December 13, U Aung Zin, a hluttaw representative for the National Democratic Force (NDF) announced that 323 cases of land grabbing throughout 13 regions and states will be brought to the hluttaw for investigation by the commission.
The NDF established the commission as part of its Farmers’ Affairs Committee in August.
There have been about 4,000 reports of land grabs from farmers to the commission since its formation, U Aung Zin said.
“In Yangon alone, there are hundreds of reports of land grab problems. But at the moment, we could only select 66 in Yangon to investigate. We’ve already investigated six cases in Yangon since we formed. The hluttaw will resume in January, so I can’t say for certain how many cases we will investigate until then,” U Aung Zin said.
U Aung Zin said that the commission is stalled by both the poor education of farmers and an unwillingness of local authorities to cooperate.
“A quarter of the reports from farmers we receive are unreasonable. It can be because that farmer is either poorly educated or because he or she is looking to take advantage of an opportunity, such as when a farmer claims he or she never received compensation but already has. These types of investigations take us a long time,” said U Aung Zin.
“Per our cooperation agreement, local authorities are meant to give us all of the documentation we need. However, when companies hear that the commission is going to investigate, they fence off their land before we get there or they cancel the farming contract with their farmers. This causes many complications, and we’ve asked local authorities to help us with this matter but they often deny us.
“The local authorities claim they have no right to stop companies from fencing off their land because the companies have permission under the law La/Na 39. They say companies can do what they want to do. But according to the law, if a company cannot implement the project within three years, they must return the land to the farmers. Most land grab problems today come from the fact that companies didn’t obey that law,” U Aung Zin added.
U Aung Thein, a hluttaw representative from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and member of the commission, said that the commission will report all of the cases they have investigated to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
“There are so many land grab problems all over the country. We are investigating some of them. When the next hluttaw session starts, we will report the ones we are investigating. The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw will then report the cases to President U Thein Sein. Even if the farmers cannot get their land back, we will try to reduce their losses,” said U Aung Thein.
U Hla Myint, a farmer from Alwan Sut village, Thanlyin township, who lost 13 acres of his land, said that he hopes to be compensated through the Farmland Nationalisation Act of 1953.
“Our farmland was taken illegally. We reported the truth. I hope the problem can be solved by the law. By law, if a government project is cancelled, farmers can get their farmland back. Farmers can also get compensation for what they lost in cultivation,” said U Hla Myint.
“Commission members came to the village on Saturday, December 8. They asked questions and took documentation from the villagers. I don’t know what the outcome of the visit will be. For now, I am very pleased that the commission is investigating,” he added.
Farmers in Alwan Sut village have been embroiled in a dispute with No 1 War Vessel Group since May 2012, after the Navy unit bulldozed their freshly sown farmland. The farmers have since been unemployed.