YANGON — The Kachin Independence Army’s Brigade No. 3 based in Mai Ja Yang stated its objection to individuals and company’s applying to use some 9,000 acres of vacant land in Kachin State’s Mansi Township for agriculture on Thursday.
These lands belong to internally displaced persons who fled their homes after renewed fighting broke out between the KIA, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization, and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) in June 2011.
Clashes are still ongoing near Mansi, and IDPs from the area are sheltering at churches and other buildings in Mai Hkawng village and at a Baptist church in Mansi town.
In a response to the Mansi Township agricultural land management and statistics department’s call for any objection to the applications, the KIA’s Mai Ja Yang branch released its response letter. It warned that individuals and companies should cease these plans or face the consequences. The KIO also warned last month that lands belonging to IDPs should not be confiscated or misused.
KIO spokesman Col Naw Bu said the KIO headquarters issued its warning last month in response to reports that the government and the Tatmadaw had been leasing IDP lands to private companies.
“We could not accept that,” he said.
Despite a lack of specifics about the types of crops people hoped to grow on these lands, some people have already planted rubbers trees and bananas, according to a development worker and lawmaker from Kachin State.
U Min Min, a state lawmaker representing Mansi constituency, told The Irrawaddy that continuous fighting in and near Mansi makes it impossible for IDPs to return home and for lawmakers to return to the villages to assess the situation.
“We have not been able to go to those villages yet, although it has been my plan to go and listen to local people’s concerns. NLD members in the villages told me to hold off my travel plans,” he said.
Lawmaker U Min Min added, “Only after we hear the villagers’ concerns can we discuss this with the local agricultural land management and statistics department. The officers told me that they have to give permission if there are any applications, as the lands are not in the forest reserve and are vacant land.”
He said that the villagers would not want companies or the government to use their lands.
In Mansi alone there are some 20,000 acres that people are trying to obtain licenses to use, and far more in the whole of Kachin State.
IDPs’ lands are being taken by others in Myitkyina’s Tah Law Gyi village, Waingmaw and Momauk towns, either by Tatmadaw soldiers or border guard forces, said the secretary of the Kachin Development Network Group.
The Kachin State government can decide whether to allow the lands requests for applicants who seek use of 50 acres or less. Permission is needed from the Union government for those who want to use more than 50 acres.
“As the state members of parliament and state government are more aware of regional affairs, the Union government should allow the state to reflect on the real situation on the ground and decide, instead of giving permission simply by looking at maps,” said U Min Min.