Companies Rush to Use Inactive Lands After Govt Announces Seizure

By Salai Thant Zin 25 July 2017

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — More than 100,000 acres of land permitted to some 270 private companies for business activities in Irrawaddy Division’s Maubin District remain inactive more than 20 years after confiscation.

Maubin District was hit the hardest by land confiscation in Irrawaddy Division, particularly in the 1990s, when the military regime grabbed hundreds of thousands of acres in Maubin, Nyaungdon, Pantanaw and Danubyu townships before leasing it out to large companies and private businessmen.

According to the secretary of the Maubin District Committee on Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands, U Hawk Sawm Man, more than 170,000 acres of land were permitted to private companies under the previous governments, but only around 67,000 acres had been utilized by the end of November 2016.

“We will require that companies return all inactive lands,” the secretary told The Irrawaddy.

The Central Committee on Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands headquartered in Naypyitaw has finalized a list of inactive lands according to surveys conducted by November 30 last year; and has said that it would seize the lands on the list, even if they were used by private companies after that date.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) government, after it came to power in April last year, called for a review of lands confiscated by the previous governments, U Hawk Sawm Man said.

Following reports that the government would seize the inactive lands, companies began digging ponds to breed fish, said U Than Win, chairman of the farmer’s organization in Nyaungdon Township.

“This month, companies began using machinery to dig breeding ponds on land that had been inactive for years. They briefly stopped when officials from the Maubin administrative department instructed them to do so, but they have started again,” he said.

“One company was digging with eight backhoes day and night on the border of Nyaungdon and Danubyu townships. It stopped only after hundreds of farmers gathered there,” he added.

Before the enactment of the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law in 2012, more than 2.2 million acres of vacant land were permitted to 4,922 companies, businesspeople and organizations. After the enactment of the law, around 96,000 acres of lands were permitted – totaling 2.33 million acres, according to deputy minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation U Hla Kyaw.

The deputy minister told the Lower House on July 3 that confiscated land committees had found that more than 1.3 million acres of the 2.33 million acres were inactive, and the government would seize them back in line with procedure.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.