Lower House Speaker Urges Govt to Return Inactive Land to Rightful Owners

By Htet Naing Zaw 13 June 2017

NAYPYITAW — Lower House Speaker U Win Myint has urged the government to return inactive land grabbed for projects across the country to the original owners.

After deputy minister for agriculture, livestock and irrigation U Hla Kyaw responded to a question from lawmaker U Thant Zin Htun about land grabbed for a mango plantation near Naypyitaw’s Dekkhinathiri Township on Monday, the speaker said confiscated lands must be returned to rightful owners if proposed projects have not been implemented.

The land in question was confiscated under the previous government and leased to private businessmen to establish mango plantations for exports.

“Don’t say the project will be implemented later. Land must be returned if there is not an ongoing project. I’d like to know if the ministry has a plan to return inactive lands. Please answer me,” the speaker asked the deputy minister.

The deputy minister said the central committee for the management of vacant, fallow and virgin lands at its recent meeting decided to revoke licenses of companies that failed to start their agricultural projects four years after receiving them.

“If there is no project, the land must be returned. That is the policy,” said U Win Myint.

He also asked lawmakers to ensure they were involved with the land confiscation review committees at different levels – which are mainly composed of administrative authorities.

“I ask this to demand fairness and justice for those who had their lands confiscated unfairly.

“Lawmakers need to do their jobs. If they don’t know how to, they can ask and if they are not allowed to join [land confiscation review committees], they can complain,” said the speaker.

U Thant Zin Htun, a lawmaker from Dekkhinathiri Township, said although he is a member of his township land confiscation review committee, he was unable to participate in the review process.

“When I asked the committee to present me with copies of its findings, it replied that it was handling it. So, I have lost my rights as a committee member,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Speaker U Win Myint said lawmakers must join in the process because members of the review committees are the same people who were involved in the land confiscation under the previous government.

Lewe Township lawmaker U Myo Zaw Aung said he had requested that the land confiscation review committees undertake reviews on days when Parliament is not in session so that lawmakers could attend.

The Central Review Committee on Confiscated Farm Lands headed by Vice President Henry Van Thio has received a total of 3,980 complaints through March 30, 2017, and has only settled 212 cases, according to a committee meeting in Naypyitaw on March 30.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.