By KANTARAWADDY TIMES
Farmers in ethnic states across Burma are facing increasing abuses of their rights to land and livelihood by the government in recent years, farmers’ networks have said.
The Federation of Ethnic Farmers Network (FEHN) released a statement on Monday demanding that all forms of oppression against farmers cease. It was published to reflect the conclusion of the FEHN’s third meeting of its members on December 13.
“There is no improvement to farmers’ rights under this civilian government,” Moe Moe, who works with the Chin Farmer’s Network (CFN), told Kantarawaddy Times, referring to the National League for Democracy administration headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. “Their land laws have caused more problems for farmers. Many Kayah [State] farmers have been prosecuted. This should not have happened,” she added.
The Burma Army is currently prosecuting 41 farmers in Karenni (Kayah) State, including three staff members of the Karenni State Farmers Union (KSFU) under Article 447 of the penal code, which prescribes a punishment of imprisonment and/or fines for trespassing. The military alleges that the farmers were trespassing on their land when they tried to cultivate farmland seized by the armed forces.
“We mainly discussed the current situation of the farmers: how farmers are facing various kinds of abuses, how farmers have lost their farmland because of big projects. We openly discussed how ethnic people are being abused in ethnic regions,” KSFU chairperson Khu Tu Reh
told Kantarawaddy Times.
According to FEFN’s statement, ethnic communities have suffered from human rights abuses perpetrated by the state and military since Burma gained independence in 1948. The situation, they said, remains unchanged by peace talks, and the government’s current land laws and mega-development projects have harmed ethnic peoples.
FEHN is calling for a federal land management system.
The network is formed of KSU, CFN, the Mon Region Land Policy Affairs Committee, Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association in Rakhine State and Karen State’s Rural Community Development Association.