The Burma Army took the land in the early 1990s but did not use it, and is now bringing charges against local farmers who try to grow crops on it.
By KANTARAWADDY TIMES
The Burma Army has prosecuted two farmers with charges of trespassing, after they attempted to work on land seized by the military decades ago in Karenni State’s Loikaw Township.
Capt. Pyae Khin Than, who is serving in an engineering battalion in the town of Hopon, filed the charges against Nang Kwe and Myat Soe Aung in February. They are accused of violating Article 447 of Burma’s Penal Code, which calls for fines or imprisonment for criminal trespassing.
Nang Kwe, lives in Myae Ni Kon village and is 74 years old. She told Kantarawaddy Times that she is afraid of facing trial, but has been attending court dates—eight of which have been held as of early March.
“I have many difficulties including problems traveling. I am also sick. At the beginning, I felt so afraid when I would see soldiers. Even though I am sick, I have had to go and attend trial. I feel so upset. I am already tired because of it,” she said.
Myae Ni Kon is among 11 villages where farmland was seized by the army in the early 1990s.
Until 2012, farmers could continue to work on their land but to pay the local troops with eight rice baskets and 2,000 kyat (US$1.30) per acre of paddy field annually. Farmers had to pay 1,500 kyat ($1) per acre of rotating slash-and-burn paddy field.
The Burma Army has never used some of the farmland it seized in the area, leading farmers to demand since 2014 that it be transferred back to local farmers. The farmers insist that they do not have other land on which they can work.
“If we relocate from here, where are we are going live? We have only this farmland. We depend on this farmland. We have worked on this farmland for many years. Therefore, we cannot move away from here,” Shar Reh, who also lives in Myae Ni Kon village, told Kantarawaddy Times.
Farmers from Myae Ni Kon reported their problem to the state government, parlieament, and courts, calling for an investigation into land grabbing and a reexamining of the prosecution of the two local farmers.
According to state parliament chair U Hla Htwe, the legislature is looking for a solution.
“We are solving it on every level. We won’t discriminate whether the case is big or small,” he told Kantarawaddy Times.
From 1991 until 1992, the Burma Army seized a total of nearly 2,011 acres of farmland in the area in question for three battalions, including 787 acres of farmland for Infantry Battalion 250, 627 acres for Artillery Battalion 356, and 597 acres for Infantry Battalion 261.