Parliament Receives Thousands of New Complaints of Confiscated Farmland

By Tin Htet Paing 6 July 2016

RANGOON — During its most recent session, Parliament received more than 2,000 new complaints of farmland seizure in less than five months, according to parliamentary committee chairs.

The Upper House’s farmer affairs committee received more than 500 complaint letters, adding to some 6,000 outstanding cases from the previous parliamentary body, committee chair Ba Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

“We can only start working on these cases systematically after policies and guidelines to handle land disputes are established by the central review committee,” Ba Myo Thein said.

He also highlighted some noticeable improvements from the previous administration’s management of land disputes, including a plan to form sub-committees on the state, divisional, ward and tract levels by the Central Review Committee on Confiscated Farm Lands and Other Lands, which will include lawmakers and farmers’ representatives.

“The central committee is even considering returning lands that were confiscated before 1988, but no decision has been made,” he added.

In late April, Ba Myo Thein talked to The Irrawaddy about the same land confiscation cases and said that according to the letters of complaint, the land was allegedly seized for the development of infrastructure and industrial zones, with most of the reported incidents occurring in Mandalay Division and Karen State.

Lawmaker Sein Win, chair of the Lower House’s farmers and laborers committee told The Irrawaddy that his committee had also received nearly 1,500 complaints before Parliament took a recess in early June. Most of the complaints came from Mandalay and Irrawaddy Divisions, he added.

In addition to the complaints received by the two committees that handle land disputes, the citizens’ fundamental rights, democracy and human rights committee of the Upper House also received some 75 letters complaining about land seizures, committee chair Htay Kywe told The Irrawaddy. The committee even found some confiscations that happened during the socialist era, he said, referring to the years from 1962 until 1988.

According to a report by the state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar in April, the Upper House’s farmers affairs committee revealed that some 200,000 acres of farmland had been confiscated nationwide during past decades, but Ba Myo Thein was unable to confirm the figure for The Irrawaddy.

While the committee’s main responsibility is to put pressure on relevant government ministries—through the speakers of Parliament—to return confiscated land or compensate the rightful owners, Ba Myo Thein said that the process of resolving disputes between related parties could take significant time.

Last week, vice-president Henry Van Thio’s national-level land dispute committee returned more than 6,000 acres of land confiscated over the past decades to the rightful owners in Irrawaddy Division’s Maubin Township. Land seized by Yuzana Company and the Ministry of Industry was returned to more than 300 owners.