Karenni Farmers Fear Seized Land Has Been Lost Permanently

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Monday, June 15, 2020

Following the seizure of their rotating farmland by the Burma Army’s Artillery Battalion 360, farmers in Karenni State’s Demoso Township say that they are worried that they will never get it back.

Farmer Nyar Mar, who lives in Dawsoshay village in Demoso Township, is among them.

“I cannot sleep at night. I feel so upset,” she told Kantarawaddy Times. “Now I am working as a daily wage worker. I can only earn 5,000 kyat (less than US$4) per day. I have to buy rice. I have three children. My income is not enough for my family. I don’t know how I can feed my children. I cannot sleep at night when I think about our future.”

She once had 20 acres of rotating farmland. It was all confiscated by the Burma Army, leaving her no place to grow crops, or to complete the construction of her partially finished one-story brick home.

Artillery Battalion 360 brought trespassing charges against 19 farmers from Dawsoshay in 2019, after they attempted to plant crops on the land. They were charged with violating Article 6(1) of the Public Property Protection Act, and Article 447 of the penal code. Half of the farmers were detained in prison for eight months before being sentenced to 15 days imprisonment, fined 10,000 kyat ($7), and released.

Another farmer whose land was seized, Khun Thomas, said that outsiders had been seen working on the confiscated land, raising concerns about whether the farmers would be able to get it returned to them.

“We haven’t gotten clear information about whether some people are working on our rotating farms. The army didn’t allow us to work on our rotating farms, but some other people have worked on our farms. It’s unfair for us,” Khun Thomas said.

The Dawsoshay farmers describe the farms in question as their inherited land from their ancestors, and that cultivating these lands had met their basic food needs. They were able to harvest around 40-50 bags of paddy seed per year, enough to feed them.

“We depend on this farmland. If we lose it, we don’t have any extra farmland. We don’t have regular income,” Khun Thomas said. “We completely depend on the farmland. That’s why we are in trouble.”

Kantarawaddy Times asked military-appointed Karenni State border affairs minister Col Myint Wai about the ongoing land disputes.

“It’s not my issue… I don’t solve the land disputes,” he said.

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