More than 100 land owners in Chaung Tha Village, Irrawaddy Division, held a protest march on Friday morning to win back land which they claim was confiscated for a hotel project on Chaung Tha Beach.
According to local sources, 615 acres of coconut gardens and farms along the beach have been confiscated since 1989 without adequate compensation.
“The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism seized the land from 1989 until 1997 in order to create a hotel zone. In 1997, they said that they will build homes and replace land from the area for us behind the hotel zone, but we have still received nothing,” said Htun Hlaing, a protesting coconut garden owner.
He explained that the victims have lost the farms and gardens which were their only livelihoods and have not received compensation as promised.
“As we lost our gardens, we lost our earnings too. As for me, around 97 acres of my coconut garden were seized. That land which we were promised back was sold on only to high ranking army chiefs and high ranking local authority officials while some were sold repeatedly to fish and prawn breeders as well,” said Htun Hlaing.
The protesters said that they have submitted an appeal to President Thein Sein and the parliamentary Land Confiscation Investigation Commission asking for an inquiry into their case.
“We believe the Investigation Commission will bring justice back for us,” said one of the protesters. “If not, we will do whatever we can to win back our land or to get adequate compensation.”
The hotel zone project was started in 1989 after the ruling junta government set 1996 as “Visit Myanmar Year” to promote the country’s tourism. Chaung Tha beach, located northwest of Pathein (Bassein), has become a popular attraction for both local and foreign tourists—second only to famous Ngapali Beach located in Arakan State.
Meanwhile, around 50 farmers have been conducting a “sit-in” protest in front of War War Win Company, in Rangoon’s Latha Township, since Wednesday. The local authorities are reportedly trying to drive the farmers home but they refuse to move.
“We will sit here until the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development or War War Win Company negotiates with us regarding our land and compensation,” said a farmer. The protesters said that they have presented their case to Land Confiscation Investigation Commission and are waiting for a response.
“We believe the Investigation Commission was formed to help people like us without bias,” added the farmer. “There are many farmers and land owners who have submitted appeals to investigate confiscation cases. We hope the commission will take this seriously and that there will be no more confiscation in the future.”
Farmers of Hlaing Thar Yar Township also held protests in July and September to demand a decent level of compensation for their confiscated land.
More than 1,000 acres have been confiscated by the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development since 1989. These were then handed over to War War Win Company in 1995 in order to build the Anawrahta Industrial Zone.