Farmers Protest for Return of Seized Land

By The Irrawaddy 16 July 2012

Around 200 farmers from Shwepyitha, Mingaladon and Hlegu townships in Rangoon Division organized a protest on Sunday in order to get their confiscated land returned in the first such action permitted under new legislation.

“This land belonged to our parents and we want it back,” said Wine Hla, one of the participating farmers who lost 15 acres. “After our land was seized we have had no way of making a living and so have instead been selling things at a small stall.”

Burma’s Parliament passed the new Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law last week which gives the right to organize demonstrations, and this is the first time such action has been permitted by the authorities.

Under the terms of the legislation protesters must submit details five days in advance of any action and include the names of the leading participants.

Another farmer called Myint Soe said Zay Kabar Company came to take his 10 acres of land without saying what was happening. He claims to have informed the township authorities but they refused to take any action so he was left with no alternative but protest himself.

“I think that I have the right to take it back and so that is why I am standing here to protest,” he added.

Khin Shwe, the chairman of Zay Kabar Company, is an MP for the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in the Lower House of the Burmese Parliament. Over 1,000 acres of land was reportedly confiscated by the company in 2010.

Zay Kabar reportedly set compensation prices ranging from 100,000 to one million kyat per acre without any agreement from the farmers.

Protest organizer Nay Myo Wai, the chairman of the Peace and Diversity Party, said he will continue to help farmers organize future demonstrations. “The protest is intended to show that the farmers have strength and will not accept the company’s action without a fight,” he said.