State Should Take Over Military Companies, Lawmaker Says

At a rubber plantation near Mon State’s Ye Township, a sign shows the area has been taken over by the Burma Army. A lawmaker from Mon State this week called on the government to divest the military of its business interests. (Photo: Independent Mon News Agency).

RANGOON — A national lawmaker has called on Burma’s government to divest the military of its business interests in a bid to improve budget transparency and curb unjust land confiscations.

Speaking before the legislature on Wednesday, Banyar Aung Moe, a lawmaker from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP), proposed that the state take over military-owned companies, which he said violated the rights of local people by frequently claiming land without compensation.

“Burma is transitioning to democracy right now, but this current system of taking land from the people is a violation of human rights,” he told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

Military businesses bring in enormous profits each year, he said. If the businesses were transferred to state hands, the government could use the extra income to support its military budget, more transparently paying for the needs of military personnel.

He also said the government should stop funding the civil war in Kachin State and instead use those funds to provide for soldiers and their families, freeing up other money in the state budget for civil society.

Land grabs are common among military businesses in Burma. In an investigation last month, a committee from the Parliament’s Lower House found that the army had confiscated thousands of acres from local people nationwide.

The government justified the land grabs, saying soldiers could contribute to the military budget, thereby reducing the government’s contribution, by growing vegetables or raising livestock on the property.

“I told Parliament that this policy had negative consequences, because the military usually destroys the land it confiscates, meaning that the land cannot be used for farming anymore,” Banyar Aung Moe told The Irrawaddy.

The lawmaker said an army battalion confiscated land from members of his constituency in Mon State’s Ye Township after the New Mon State Party (NMSP) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1995.

Local communities were forced to sign away their land rights, he said.

“The people were afraid of their guns; that’s why they signed the documents allowing the land grabs,” he said.

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland released a report a decade ago about land confiscations in Mon State and southern Burma after the 1995 ceasefire deal was reached.

The report, called “No Land to Farm,” said that within five years of the ceasefire, the Burmese armed forces had confiscated more than 7,700 acres from more than 370 farmers in Mon State and southern Burma.

Land grabs occurred most frequently in Ye Township, the report found, as thousands of Burmese troops were deployed to the area after the ceasefire and more than 15 new battalions were established in Mon State.

Farmers fled to refugee camps on the Thai border after losing their land, the report added. Their children were often pulled from schools in the move.

In other cases, the report said, farmers were forced to work for the army without pay or benefits.

8 Responses to State Should Take Over Military Companies, Lawmaker Says

  1. No matter who controls the lands, the owners deserve compensation. Military is not supposed to roam so freely to confiscate lands. The military must not run its own companies or business but carrying on defense related duties alone. The military is the most hated ministry because of its own image as bully. Also, even if the State takes over from military, the former owners must be compensated fairly.

  2. I have saying about that many times on Irrawaddy and other exile Medias.
    Military has no business to competition with private Business Companies.
    Military and other Government ministries must be funded by Government. Government needs to collect Tax from all Businesses. Tax collecting is vital income for country and Government.
    Anyone who invades Tax in present and past should be deserved severe prosecution.
    Current Military involvement in land confiscating and persecution on who against military action is leading to peoples distrust Military role in country and hatred toward Military in country.
    President U Thein Sein and General Min Aung Hlaing must be totally ride off ex dictatorship Than Shwe and his philosophy altogether now.
    Burmese democracy reform shouldn’t copy what Indonesia military was doing in Indonesia.
    If anyone (General) wants to do business and wants to live in cozy living style and then they should change Army uniform with business suit.
    I hope President U Thein Sein will should true leadership and Gen Min Aung Hlaing will respect authority of head of the state.

  3. The state and the military have been a single entity for so long they wouldn’t know how to stop grabbing land and assets. And who is going to stop them? ASSK and her rule of law committee? Not bloody likely. Banyar Aung Moe was brave to even broach the subject and point out the difference between the state and the military.

  4. all these companies are by all accounts belong to the state because the generals have not put a single in the said businesses. instead, they should be questioned how much money they have pocketed from the companies and what other crimes and corruptions they committed relating to these businesses. the justice must prevail as you cannot forget and forgive everything. .

  5. I, for one, support this proposition.
    I suspect that the one trillion kyats budget allotment fior military spending includes subsidies of these companies, particularly the MEHL and its dubsidiary the Myanma Economic Company Ltd, These people have been running businesses the art and technology of which they know nothing about. And there is lots of misuse and abuse of funds besides wastage.
    Who audits their accounts? Just who are responsible for their operations? And who keep track of their performance and personnel competence.
    Besides, what is the reason for these industries? To self-support the military expenditures? If so, how come the necessity of the military budget?
    It is all screwy, and mind boggling for the public.
    It should be cleared.
    And what is with all other government economic enterprises that haven’t stood the test of time? They have done nothing good for the country, except for bribery and corruption and misappropriations.
    The government’s job is a regulatory role and must be competent in policy formulation, and running of the public service departments. Not to get involved in commercial ventures.
    I would sup[port any move that would remove all government economic and commercial enterprises.

  6. I might add that when I said I supported the Representative’s proposition, I had meant ti clear the accounts and responsibility with the military companies, not really nationalization of any sort, The government must sell them to willing private companies.

  7. That’s why DASSK has been repeatedly saying that first and foremost, there must be rule of law. At present, the laws drawn up by the previous junta only benefits the junta, not the people. These laws are very rigid when it’s for the people but very elastic for the junta. Moreover, as long as the Judiciary is not independent, no matter how good the laws are, it’s meaningless.

    • Then she’d better make up her mind if she means rule of unjust laws or overturning them to bring in proper and just laws. Couldn’t agree more it shouldn’t be one law for us and another law for them, or law that’s like putty in the generals’ hands.

      Time to waffle is over and it does not become her. The more this drags on the lower she’s going to sink in popular esteem.

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