Burma Army Must Return Illegally Confiscated Land, Lawyer Says

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The Burmese military must return land seized from farmers in Karenni State if the act violated the country’s land confiscation law, a lawyer has said.

Lawyer Thein Oo cited legal statutes through which locals in Demoso Township’s Dawsoshay village could get back farmland seized by Artillery Battalion 360 in 2003 and 2004. Farmers were forced to relocate from their village, where they had lived since at least 1879.

“There is the 1894 Land Confiscation Law. The army can confiscate land with this law,” Thein Oo told Kantarawaddy Times. “The army must return the land if it’s not in line with the existing land confiscation law. They must return the land,” he said, adding that Union President Win Myint had already made the order to do so.

Since farmers had cultivated crops on the land around Dawsoshay village for more than 50 years, they are entitled to continue to have rights to the land or appropriate compensation for their loss.

“According to law, farmers have their rights. Farmers have suffered a lot because they haven’t gotten any compensation for their land,” Thein Oo said

Dawsoshay is home to 27 households. The military has prosecuted members of 15 families, charging them with violating Article 447 of the encroachment act and Article 6(1) of the public property protection act, for trying to reclaim the land. They are currently being detained.

Law Home Legal Organization director Kyaw Wunna Aung said that farmers could not apply to be released on bail because of these charges, and their absence has affected the families; ability to work.

“In some families, the husband, wife and children are charged. Now it’s time to harvest their crops but they cannot gather their crops,” Kyaw Wunna Aung said.

If the farmers are found guilty of violating Article 6(1), they will be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, the Legal House director said.

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