Burma Defense Ministry Says Contested Land to Become Homes for Veterans

Myanmar, Burma, Yangon, Rangoon, military, army, tatmadaw, land, dispute, Michaungkan

Land in eastern Rangoon’s Michaungkan village was planted with vegetables before farmer were evicted last year. (Photo: Ma Tar)

RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Defense has said it will not return land in eastern Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township that was forcibly seized during military rule, since it plans to build new homes for veterans on the land.

Hundreds of former occupiers of land in Michaungkan village, evicted in the early 1990s, say they were not properly compensated for their land, which would now be highly valuable.

Another group of one-time occupiers, 179 families of vegetable farmers to whom the army rented the land after the initial evictions, were themselves moved off the land in June 2013.

In a private letter to lawmaker Thein Nyunt, who has taken up the displaced vegetable farmers’ cause in Parliament, the Defense Ministry said the 33.855 acres of the land would not be returned to anyone, since it would soon be used to build homes for former army employees.

The letter insisted that the land was military property, and that under the law, rented land can be taken back at any time.

The ministry said it had provided temporary plots of land in East Dagon, on the outskirts of Rangoon, for 56 vegetable farming families to live on for six months. But that period has already expired, and the farmers say they have nowhere else to go.

Thein Nyunt told The Irrawaddy that the ministry appeared to be conflating the two groups of former occupiers in its response, as it did not distinguish between the claims of the vegetable farmers and the pre-1990s owners.

He said the vegetable growers simply wanted to be allowed to continue renting the land.

“We are not encouraging them to violate the law by keep sticking in the area,” he said.

“They have been growing crops there for 20 years and paying taxes. We are not asking [the army] to give the land back to them as their own possession, but to rent them the land so that they can grow and keep their livelihoods,” Thein Nyunt said, adding that the military should also compensate the original owners of the land properly.

As for the claim the seized land will be turned into homes for veterans, Thein Nyunt said he was not certain this plan would ever come to fruition.

U Kyaw, another lawmaker for Rangoon Division, said the new temporary land given to the vegetable farmers is very small—with plots measuring only 20 by 30 feet—and that much of the land was flooded and unusable.

“The place is no bigger than cowshed,” he said of the small temporary plots.

Soe Mi Mi Thu, one of the vegetable growers who has campaigned against the eviction and is better known as Ma Tar, said she wanted to hold a press conference to clear up the confusion about the two different groups and their different demands.

She also said the vegetable farmers had no security in their “temporary” land plots. “We don’t know what the relevant department will arrange for us after the six months of temporary stay,” Ma Tar said.

Hundreds of the pre-1990s occupiers repeatedly protested last year, and set up a protest camp on the land in November. That camp was finally abandoned in December after Aung Thein Lin, a ruling-party lawmaker and a member of Parliament’s Land Investigation Committee, promised to investigate the case urgently.

2 Responses to Burma Defense Ministry Says Contested Land to Become Homes for Veterans

  1. Give the land back to farmers. Soldiers have no reason to use the land for killer veterans. We do not appreciate these veterans who protected dictators, and raping countless women. They do not deserve a place to live here in our neighborhood. Their place is in Hell. They better join Ne Win and Sein Lwin there. Than Shwe and his associates will be there soon too.

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “Burma’s Ministry of Defense has said it will not return land in eastern Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township that was forcibly seized during military rule, since it plans to build new homes for veterans on the land”.
    Another way to put it: BURMESE MILITARY ROBBED the LAND from ITS OWNERS AT GUNPOINT no less.
    Then the LAND WAS LEASED to GROWERS and the MILITARY ENJOYED the PROCEEDS as well. Right?
    Now the BURMA ARMY says the LAND GRABBED from the FARMERS would be GIVEN to the FAMILIES of the VETERANS (soldiers) only.
    This BARES the FACT that the BURMA ARMY is BIASED (favoring armed forces personnel over ordinary citizenry) of course.
    The BURMA ARMY is ROBBING LANDS at GUNPOINT to SUSTAIN the VETERANS and their POSTERITY as well on the long run AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FARMERS’ (ordinary citizenry) LANDS and LIVELIHOODS. Don’t argue man!
    Hence, ROBBING the FARMERS’ LANDS and LIVELIHOODS for the VETERANS on the part of the BURMA ARMY is SIMPLY an ACT of ARMED ROBBERY no less as well.
    Myanmar Defense Ministry saying the contested lands would be given to the VETERANS only EVIDENCED the FACT, THERE IS NO RULE of LAW much less JUSTIFICATION for THAT MATTER as well I say!
    And Suu Kyi is HEADING the RULE of LAW COMMISSION in the country as well, if I heard it right also.
    Shwe Mann is a former military man and it holds me in NO AWE in case he CHOOSES to TURN A BLIND EYE for this INJUSTICE DONE on the FORMER OWNERS (farmers) OF THE LAND.
    And Suu Kyi WON her 1991 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE in addition to hundreds of international citations for her stand against INJUSTICE, LAWLESSNESS and DICTATORS WHO WOULD NEVER GIVE UP THEIR ILL-GOTTEN POWER and PROPERTY/WEALTH VOLUNTARILY as well in Burma if I heard it right and in the first place.
    Hence, Suu Kyi’s COURAGE, CREDIBILITY, CHARISMA, CHARACTER and SENSE of JUSTICE specifically among others would COME INTO QUESTION and be PUT ON THE LINE as well in case SHE PLAYS POSSUM/DUMB in THIS MATTER (military robbing lands and livelihoods of the people at gunpoint for former soldiers prosperity and posterity only) of course.
    And COWARDS DIE EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVING LIVES, lest Suu Kyi and the people in Burma forget as well.

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