A faint hope

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Mi Myar & U Myar

A group of farmers plowing on a red-soil field in Deemawso Township, Kayah State, where they are villagers of Daw Hso Shay, and plowing on their ancestral land. Soon afterward, a police force arrived there and took them away; a total of those 19 farmers were filed a case at police station.

The reason is their land has been confiscated. But for farmers who do not understand whether the military really needs to seize those lands, or why it was confiscated, it is necessary for them to work and eat for their livelihood. Farmers who have now been released say they are worried about getting enough food every day.

The Daw Hso Shay village has only 27 houses and a population of 112. In addition, farming is their main occupation.

Those farmers who had been arrested and filed a case at police station were plowing on their field during monsoon season with the hope of getting their land back even though they have been forcibly banned from cultivating their confiscated land.

In addition, 19 farmers were arrested under Section 447 of the Penal Code for trespassing, and Section 6/1 for vandalism. Nine farmers were trialed in prison and jailed for more than seven months.

On March 13, 2020, the Deemawso Township Court sentenced farmers charged under Section 6/1 to three months with hard labor, and fined farmers under Section 447 to 15 days’ imprisonment or a fine of 10,000 kyat.

The military has filed a total of six cases under Section 6/1; Section 447 is included. Farmers charged under Section 447 were fined, and farmers charged under all six sections were released on parole.

In the township court, the farmers faced more than 40 sessions, three external sessions, and the rest sessions with the summary to 9 farmers.

The appointment at court was once a week, and the farmers faced the case to see if they could get their land back. It was also a pressure for family member to see the accused farmer during the appointment.

“They make appointments once a week or twice a week. It costs money when our children come to see us,” said U Parskwar Leh, one of the arrested persons.
Among the nine farmers arrested was a 55-year-old widow. She is Daw Nyar Mar and 15 acres of farmland were taken away.

“Only one girl like me was summoned. Five girls were on trial outside. But I do not know why, I was the only one summoned,” she recounted her tragic past.
I never thought I would be imprisoned in my life. She said she cried every day while in prison because she was scared because she was alone with a woman. During inprison, she said she spent her time in prison while there was a birth of her first grand-child, leaving her daughter with the burden of caring, and she suffered from depression in prison.

“It simply make me feel pain if I retell the story. I want to talk a lot, but I can’t talk anymore. It was very difficult when I was in prison, but I could not talk about it anymore. I want to tell you that it was very difficult for me, but I don’t know how to explain you that suffer”

In 2016, Daw Nyar Mar applied for Form-7, but did not get all of them and received only 5 acres.

The army also seized that five acres with applied Form-7. Now she has less than an acre of land to work on, just over half an acre.
In fact, Daw Hso Shay Village originally had more than 500 acres of farmland, and the army has confiscated land since 2016. In 2019, all the lands in front of Daw Hso Shay were confiscated.

The military has sued farmers for plowing confiscated land. The military appealed to the state court on July 7 after the military was dissatisfied with the sentence in the township court. Seventeen farmers have been arraigned four times in state court, and their cases were dismissed on October 15.

Although the case was dismissed, the confiscated land was not returned.
In Kayah State, 8,323 acres of land were confiscated by the military from 1990 to 2011. According to the Karenni Farmers’ Union, 794 acres were relinquished.
Khun Maung Lwin, a member of the Kayah State Farmers’ Union, called on governments to stand up for farmers and resolve them, and he also want to request the military to seize the land only until their required security area and relinquish the remaining land to farmers.

“Governments need to confront the army, because the military is under the presidency, so it is not doing anything right now under this government. Here, the government must put pressure on the people and then the government should put pressure on the military to relinquish them,” he continued.

In case of the lands confiscated by Amata (360), the farmlands were given for the battalion to form the camp, which was established only later 2003-2004.
U Parskwar Leh, who is over 50 years old, lives in Daw Hso Shay Village and owns more than 16 acres of farmland. In 2019, the army confiscated the land, leaving him with only one and a half acres. He is one of six farmers who have been jailed by the military in all six cases, and he told his difficulties like that.

“They did not pay compensation whereas the farm has been confiscated. The court has arrainged every day also; once or twice a week. We are very depressed. We do not even know what to feed our children and grandchildren. We have no salary and we have nothing to do as they had confiscated our land. It becomes like that and I don’t know what will happen in the future,” he said.

At the 2020 Kayah State Day Festival, Karenni youths called on Aung San Suu Kyi and promised to resolve the issue.

Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD Central Information Committee, said that land was confiscated not only during the current government but also during the previous government.

There are many lands not only confiscated by military but also confiscated by other means in Kayah State. Under the current government, 41 farmers have been sued over confiscated land in Kayah State.

Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD’s Central Information Committee, kept saying that the land confiscated by the ministry had been reclaimed by the NLD government and returned in accordance with Form-7. He added that similar arrangements are being made in Kayah State. He also added that land policies have been formulated for the 2020 election.

“I don’t know if there are 52 points issued by the president on land policy. Some of them are being given back to those involved. I don’t know the details of those 52 points. If you really own your land, we are giving it back.”

However, under the current government, farmers are facing land confiscation. It has not been found to be effective in resolving land confiscation issues.

Daw Klaw Mar, who was involved in 25 acres of confiscated land, was charged under Section 447 and fined. She said she could not do any other work and wanted to ask the relevant governments to solve for land issue.

“The problem is that we can not do any other work. This is what we have been doing for generations. Until now, we have only been working in the fields. Now we have no land to earn a living.

The land confiscation has been a problem since the 2010 government.
The vacant land law, which was enacted in 2012, does not protect farmers, especially those in ethnic areas.

“The vacant land law does not provide any security for farmers. We do not have vacant land in Kayah State, and it is even more difficult to provide security for farmers,” Khun Maung Lwin, a member of the Kayah State Farmers’ Union, said.
Under the NLD government, the law on vacant land was amended, but it was not effective for farmers.

“We have been protesting from the beginning that the amendment to the vacant land law was a form of land confiscation law. We objected that the law should not be passed, but when it was approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, we had a problem. We are not protected by this vacant land law, Kayah State Democratic Party Secretary U Teh Reh said.

In the 2020 election, ethnic parties based in Kayah State will also become a powerful party. The Kayah State Democratic Party (KySDP) and the Kayan National Party (KNP) are allies.

He (U Teh Reh) says if they win the next election, they will solve these land issues.
“We will do it, but we cannot guarantee how much we will get back. But we have to deal with these land issues,” Kayah State Democratic Party Secretary U The Reh said.
He added that land disputes in Kayah State could be resolved outside the law if they could not be resolved through legal means.

“We have been thinking about how we can protect our land, not through the law, and how we can get the land back, but we can only do it in collaboration with our local people, but when it does happen, we can’t predict what will happen.”
Land confiscation in Kayah State has been a problem since the 1980s under the junta. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is a party led by former military officers.

“Since the 2010-15 government, a committee has been formed to reclaim confiscated land. The governments that came to power in 2015-20 are investigating and giving back what should have been given back, but they already have a plan to leave what is really needed for defense and give back what is not needed,” said Htay Reh, a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) committee in Kayah State.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won in 2010-2015, and if it wins in 2020, it will form a ministry of agriculture in term of farmer issues.

“When it comes to farmers, if the government comes back, we will look at the facts. We can not say much about the facts when it comes to the facts we do not know in details. If our party could form the government, we are ready to do a lot about the farmers’ issue. Since it is entailed in our objectives, we still haven’t have detailed plan.”

Due to the confiscated land in Kayah State, there are farmers who have been filed a lawsuit and from Daw Mu Klar Village and Myay Ni Gone village in Loikaw Township, and from Daw Hso Shay Village in Deemawso Township.

Under the current government, there were disagreements between the government and the people over the statue and land confiscation in Kayah State. In this election, the people of Kayah State want a government that emphasizes ethnic rights. And twelve parties will contest in Kayah State.

It remains to be seen how the next government will address the current situation in Kayah State.

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