Nattalin Farmers Resign En Masse from USDP

By Kaung Myat Min 22 May 2015

NATTALIN, Pegu Division — Nearly 100 farmers from villages in western Pegu Division’s Nattalin Township gathered at the local Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) office on Wednesday, renouncing their memberships over frustrations at a lack of party help in a land dispute.

Locals said that the military, district authorities and some government departments had confiscated some 450 acres of land in the township, including lands belonging to USDP members. The farmers, from 10 outlying villages, proclaimed their resignation from the USDP while at least 50 more asked the party to return their membership application forms.

“This USDP leadership said they would stand by the truth,” said farmer Myint Naing. “They said in the case of conflicts between the interests of the party and the interests of the people, they would serve the latter. When we asked for their help after our land was confiscated, they did nothing. We have resigned from a party that does not look after people.”

On Wednesday morning, farmers assembled outside the USDP offices in Nattalin town, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Prome. More than 50 of those present loudly called for the return of their USDP membership application forms, which were supplied last October as party officials traveled door-to-door to sign up villagers.

“In 2008, we voted in favor of ratifying the Constitution. In 2010, we voted for the party,” said farmer Chit Ko, a resident of Dama Nge village. “Although our villages don’t put up USDP signboards, all are full of USDP members.”

“Last year, party recruiters visited our homes, took our photos and asked us to fill in membership application forms, and we did so,” he added. “We’ve come now to take them back. Why bother to join a good-for-nothing party?”

Tint Lwin, secretary of the Nattalin office of the USDP and a member of the Pegu Division Parliament, told The Irrawaddy that of the 41 people who resigned from the party on Wednesday, 11 had already been expelled, adding that the party would return application forms to those who asked.

“There are 120 farmers in the area whose lands were confiscated,” he said. “Of the 41 members who resigned, one of them has been expelled from the party a long time ago for breaching party rules. Ten more were expelled yesterday [May 20] after a decision by the USDP township executive board.”

According to farmers, the simmering dispute began in 1994, when a 1000-acre stretch of land cultivated by district administrators was confiscated under the pretense of turning the area into a forest reserve. Around 550 acres were eventually returned to villagers, while the rest was appropriated by government departments and the Burma Army’s 4th Light Infantry Battalion.