Tensions Rise in Parliament Over Land Grab Cases

Zay Kabar chairman Khin Shwe, has faced lawsuits by farmers to provide compensation and return land he seized for business ventures in Rangoon Division. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — A lawmaker who leads one of Burma’s most powerful companies has threatened to sue the government amid growing pressure to return land he confiscated under the former military regime.

Khin Shwe, a Lower House lawmaker and chairman of the powerful Zay Kabar Company, has faced lawsuits by farmers to provide compensation and return land he seized for business ventures in Rangoon Division, but he says he is not to blame and should be allowed to keep most of the property.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, he threatened to sue the government if it did not recognize that the former military regime gave him permission to confiscate the land.

His threat followed reports that the defense minister told lawmakers that the military would return land appropriated by their forces. A 2012 farmland law also requires all confiscated land to be returned to their owners within six months if it has not been used.

Of the property in Rangoon Division, Khin Shwe, who represents the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said he believed he should be able to keep land already registered for construction of economic projects, but that he would return land that had not yet been registered.

The issue of land grabs has become a priority in Parliament amid growing protests by farmers and other land owners who lost their property to the military, government-run projects or private companies during the decades of military rule.

Pe Than, a lawmaker for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said he believed the government should return all land to the victims, rather than only giving back plots that are not being used.

“It is important to find out who the land originally belonged to,” said Pe Than. “The government should give back all the land to the victims.”

Of Khin Shwe, he added: “He has money in his pockets. He can do anything by approaching the military. This is, in the past, how he took land from poor people. No matter what he says about ownership documentation for the land, it is important to give it back to the people.”

Mi Myint Than, a lawmaker and member of Parliament’s land investigation committee, said the military and the government had long delayed returning confiscated property.

“They do not want to give back land to the people,” said the lawmaker from the All Mon Region Democracy Party. “This is why it took so long to discuss the issue in Parliament.”

“He [Khin Shwe] only talked about how to protect his company, not how to solve the land problem,” Mi Myint Than added.

Burma is an agricultural country where the majority of people are farmers. Land grabs have been common since the 1963 Land Acquisition Act, which nationalized land ownership across the country, with property being confiscated to build economic projects, industrial zones and army bases or to expand urban areas.

Victims could not protest land seizures during military rule, but the country’s recent political reforms have emboldened many to speak up, with farmers organizing demonstrations across the country and sending petitions to President Thein Sein to return their land.

In Burma’s resource-rich and restive border regions, where many ethnic minorities live, the military has often seized land from communities at gunpoint.

Under Thein Sein’s government, most major armed rebel groups have signed ceasefires with the government, and an influx of local and foreign companies have confiscated property in ethnic areas for mines or plantations.

Ethnic right activists have said that the 2012 land law often fails to recognize the land tenure of farmers or local customary land laws, while many farmers struggle to register ownership.

In May, about 40 activist groups met in Rangoon and called on the government, ethnic rebel militias and the international community to ensure that recent ceasefires in ethnic areas do not lead to a surge in land grabbing, deforestation and the damming of rivers. The groups also wanted to meet with the two most important government committees on land tenure, but their request for a meeting was declined.

10 Responses to Tensions Rise in Parliament Over Land Grab Cases

  1. It is a disgrace to the already tarnished parliament, full of unelected and questionably elected members, that a chrony businessman parliamentarian talk about his interests rather than about the people he is supposed to represent.

  2. Dear, U Khin Shwe, we all know that you have money and you can do what ever you like in the past. But the time has changing and now is the time for the people’s powers. Just gave back some of your confiscated land before it’s too late. The people and the gorvernment of Myanmar will not turn back to Military rule just for you and people like you’s benefit. You were just a clerk in my unles office in Mawlamyine, Mon State. At that time you were getting less than US $-10 Dollars in a month. Don’t for get your past life. My unle tolk me about how clever you are and how obedience your are. Your are totally difference now. Any way, please consider your self as a farmer , how would you feel?. . Money could not buy happiness but material thing.. One day we all have to die and all of this material things coult not bring us to good luck but it will harm our soul in the next life.

  3. Yes, kihin shwe is land sucker but please do not forget the real facts that ” how he got the land and by whom? This is a solid approve of brutal corruption between cronies and generals, (than shwe, khin nyunt,, thein sein, shwe mann,……………etc). They are still above the law and untouchable.

  4. What military government will do is very simple…they willl instruct cronies to give back small amount of lands and close the captor. Generals do not like this land issues because they also own the lands and houses like cronies. They are same group and they do not want to be next culprits.

  5. This fat man who has no mercy for the poor people must not be in the floor of Hlutdaw.

  6. No comments on landgrabbing? It is one of the biggest social issues!

  7. We all know that that land is never going to be returned to the rightful owners…We all know who Khin Shwe’s daughter is married to…shwe mann’s son…so parliament is super corrupted and even the president cannot control them….if they don’t want to do it, khin shwe and shwe mann will make sure that the parliament would veto that particular law…very simple…as long as those people are in the parliament, myanmar’s progress will be hindered.

  8. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Oft and again I say ” Dictators (Than Shwe, Maung Aye, Khin Nyunt, Shwe Mann and of course Khin Shwe specifically and others as well) would not give up power or property gained during their days VOLUNTARILY” trust me.
    Khin Shwe’s a case in point for that matter as evidenced.
    The fact that he is ready to SUE the GOVERNMENT self-testified the fact as well.
    GREED KNOWS NO BOUNDS they say as well.
    The fact that Khin Shwe’s daughter is married to Shwe Mann’s son reinforced the CRONY’S HAND as well no doubt.
    In case Shwe Mann happens to hold the rein of Burma as president in the post 2015 era the farmers can SAY GOODBYE to their LANDS seized as the LAW concerning RETURN of CONFISCATED LAND (PROPERTY) would certainly GO INTO OBLIVION under Shwe Mann’s watch, any bets?
    Hence, the BEST BET and ONLY SUBSTITUTE for ALL in BURMA is to PREEMPT Shwe Mann, from holding the reins of the country and DRIVE the CRONIES and the BURMESE MILITARY most specifically OUT OF THE POLITICAL PICTURE OF THE COUNTRY VIA PEOPLE POWER prior to HOLDING the 2015 POLLS I say.

  9. Zay Kabar chairman Khin Shwe et all must return the land to the rightful owners. There is no such thing as confiscation of land. Khin Shwe has no shame to claim, it is not his fault knowing fully well that the land was given to him illegally. If Myanmar is to move forward – heal the hands that feeds you and not bite that hands that feeds you.

  10. Why so much greed, beyond a certain point wealth in most hands is poisonous. Life is short, distracted by greed, we may live even a shorter life. Exercise, eat more vegitables, drink 6 glasses of water a day, avoid fatty food especially pork. You and your family will have a longer and happier life. Most of images I see are fat, heavy eye lids and may even have spidar nevi [ porto- systemic collaterals ].Sick people often have sick mind.
    Khin Shwe looks like he is about to cry.

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