Karenni State Chief Minister Says He Lacks Authority to Return Land Seized by Tatmadaw

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Karenni State chief minister L Phaung Sho
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Karenni State chief minister L Phaung Sho has reiterated his lack off authority to return land seized by the military to the farmers who have demanded it, instead sending the state’s recommendations to do so to the Union government.

“The Union government can manage it. They are still investigating it. They will return the seized land to farmers after the investigation. As the chief of the state government, I don’t have the authority to manage it,” L Phaung Sho told Kantarawaddy Times during an interview on December 31.

He said that the state government frequently receives complaints about land disputes. The typical chain of action is to discuss the issue with a sub-committee and district then township administrators. The meeting results are then sent to the Union government with recommendations—in this case, to return the land.

“It’s not true that we are not doing anything in this case. I want to tell [the farmers] that we have already reported our suggestions,” L Phaung Sho explained.

Currently, a total of 41 Karenni farmers have been charged with trespassing and the destruction of public property for trying to reclaim farmland seized by the Burmese military. On December 13, 10 people were prosecuted for trespassing in this way, including seven farmers and three staff from the Kayah State Farmers Union.

KSFU chair Khu Tu Reh said that the land should be returned and that those facing charges are suffering both mentally and physically.

“The Burma Army should understand the lives of farmers. They should have mercy on farmers. It would be good if the Burma Army could show its mercy by withdrawing all lawsuits against farmers,” he said.

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