The Irrawaddy

Farmland Rented Out by Previous Governments Under Investigation

The Irrawaddy

NAYPYITAW — Authorities in Naypyitaw will investigate to find out whether some 30,000 acres of confiscated land leased to agri-businesses by previous governments are being used as intended.

The Naypyitaw Council formed two vacant, fallow and virgin lands inspection teams on March 6, said lawmaker and team member U Maung Maung Swe, adding that authorities will seize any inactive land and use it for other purposes, including farming.

Each group has six members and includes a lawmaker and officials from the Agriculture and General Administration departments, and will start work before Myanmar’s New Year festival.

“We will start inspection in Ottarathiri District before Thingyan, and then Dekkhinathiri District. We have rough data about which areas are inactive,” said U Maung Maung Swe.

The two teams will then have to present their survey reports and photos to the Naypyitaw Union Territory Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Central Committee.

The committee can seize land that remains inactive four years after a permit was issued, the lawmaker said.

As of 2005, thousands of acres of land were confiscated to establish agricultural zones including mango and castor oil plantations in Naypyitaw. Land in those zones was then leased to private businesspeople for farming.

According to existing laws governing land use in Myanmar, fallow, vacant and virgin land can be leased for up to 30 years for agricultural purposes.

Some businesspeople, however, did not do any farming and their land has remained inactive for years.

Some of that land might have been confiscated from farmers, said Lower House lawmaker U Than Soe Aung, of Naypyitaw’s Pyinmana Township.

The previous government of U Thein Sein issued permits for about 8,000 acres of land to grow mangos just months before the National League for Democracy (NLD) took office in early 2016. The original owners continue to complain that their land was grabbed, said Lower House lawmaker U Thant Zin Htun, of Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri Township.

“When nothing is done on that land, it is a loss not only for the country but also for the farmers and locals whose land was confiscated,” he said.

“I had eight acres of land confiscated in 2010. I just want to get that land back because nothing has been done with it. And  I don’t need compensation either,” said U Than Tun Aung, a farmer in Dekkhinathiri.

The Naypyitaw Union Territory Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Central Committee plans to complete the inspection before the eighth regular session of Parliament resumes, said U Maung Maung Swe.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.