Farmers Fight ‘Official Ownership’ Application of Confiscated Lands Near Inle Lake

By Khin Oo Tha 17 May 2017

RANGOON — Farmers claiming ownership of confiscated land near Inle Lake, Nyaungshwe Township, southern Shan State have filed a complaint against businesses’ application for official ownership documents of the land.

The former Shan State government acquired the land from locals for a proposed hotel zone project in 2012, but subsequently sold the land to businesses instead of establishing the hotel zone, farmers told The Irrawaddy.

As some buyers of the land have applied for ownership documents, original owners have filed complaints with concerned authorities, said U Aung Kyaw Myo, a resident of Ingyin Gon Village who had 20 acres of his land confiscated.

“I didn’t accept compensation for the land acquired by the government, I together with other owners have filed complaints against the application of ownership documents,” said U Aung Kyo Myo, adding that he wanted his land returned and would still not accept compensation.

Daw Naung Hni, who had 10 acres of her land taken also filed a complaint, but she has a different view: “It is not possible to get back my land in the original condition because roads have been built. So, I want to get decent compensation.”

According to locals, a total of 620 acres of land were grabbed from six villages.

Dr. Tun Hlaing, Intha ethnic affairs minister of the current Shan State government, told The Irrawaddy that confiscation was not in line with the law.

“I’d say that land was grabbed unfairly. The [previous Shan State] government said it would build hotels, but sold the land to businesses instead. As far as I’ve learned, they sold the land for between 60 million and 90 million kyats per acre,” he said.

“I’ll try my best to give that land back to the original owners,” the minister added.

U Khin Htwe and U Ko Ko Gyi from Rangoon applied for official ownership documents for the land in January, and 74 farmers filed complaints the same month.

Township authorities summoned five complainants, including U Aung Myo Kyaw, on May 11, according to the farmer.

“The deputy township administrator asked us if we have ownership documents for our farmland, and how we owned them. We inherited the land from our ancestors. And usually, people here do not have ownership documents,” said U Aung Myo Kyaw.

Local farmers staged several protests against the confiscation of farmland under the previous government, but received no acknowledgement from authorities.

The 600 acres of confiscated lands include farmland, cropland, vegetable patches, fruit gardens, and bamboo plantations. Some of the original owners accepted compensation for their crops when the land was confiscated, but none of them received compensation for the actual land, according to locals.

Locals did not receive prior notice of land confiscations, and only knew about it when trucks arrived. Disputes arose and the proposed project was halted until now.