Burma

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Vows Probe Into Kayah Farmland Seizures by Myanmar Military

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 15 January 2020

Yangon – Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has promised to review the military’s confiscation of farmland and its lawsuits against 40 farmers in Kayah State. 

The State Counselor met seven Karenni representatives for 20 minutes at the state guest house after attending the 68th Kayah State Day celebration and delivering a speech. 

The Karenni representatives made three demands: intervention over the confiscated farmland; removal of a statue of her father – General Aung San – from a park in the state capital, Loikaw; and a review of youth policies, including the establishment of youth centers.

Karenni representatives were given pledges from the State Counselor on just one of the issues: land disputes.

The State Counselor failed to address the issue of the statue and reviewing youth policies, one of the Karenni leaders, Khun Thomas, told The Irrawaddy. 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said her staff would urgently review the military’s lawsuits and discuss the issue with the Attorney General’s Office.

The State Counselor promised to help with any subsequent problems between the military and farmers. 

“We were not pleased with this meeting because of the limited time,” said Khun Thomas, joint secretary of the Union of Karenni State Youth. 

He was jailed for six months together with five other Karenni activists who opposed the statue of the general and for calling the Kayah State chief minister and another minister “political criminals“, enemies of ethnic unity and traitors to the Karenni people.

“Our only hope from the meeting is that the State Counselor will help the farmers,” said Khu Tu Reh, chairman of the Karenni State Farmer Union. 

He said he handed the State Counselor details about the cases of confiscated farmland and the military lawsuits against 40 farmers. 

The 40 farmers, including five women, are from two Kayah State townships and are accused of farming on military-owned land and breaking military fences around the land.

Khu Tu Reh said the military seized and fenced off approximately 200 hectares of farmland in 2019, although farmers had been using the land for about 50 years and had Form 7 Land registration certificates. 

The farmers have been sued by the military under Articles 447 and 427 of the Penal Code for trespassing and damaging public property, and separately for breaking military fences under the Public Property Protection Act.

Eleven of the farmers, including one woman, are being held in prison.

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