Parliament Sets Deadlines for Govt to Resolve Land Disputes

By Land Rights, Nyein Nyein 20 February 2014

The Union Parliament on Thursday ordered the government to resolve land-grab cases in Burma no later than June and September of this year.

Parliament’s Farmland Investigation Commission said Thursday that the responsible government bodies must find a solution to problems involving seized rice paddy plots by June, and by September for cases of lands that had been used to grow other crops.

Lawmakers said the commission agreed to set time frames for resolution of the issue in accordance with the President Thein Sein’s “Clean Government, Good Governance” policy, first announced in 2011.

Ba Shein, a Lower House lawmaker from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and a member of the Farmland Investigation Commission, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the commission felt compelled to set the deadlines in light of Deputy Home Affairs Minister Kyaw Kyaw Htun’s “inadequate” response to a March 2013 commission report outlining the severity of the land-grab situation in Burma.

“We urge the government to take the problem seriously,” said Ba Shein. “It is their responsibility, because there are reports of farmers’ protests almost every day for the return of their lands. If they [the government] had taken the problem seriously, it [protests] would not need to happen.”

Kyaw Kyaw Htun on Thursday countered that the government was working to solve the land disputes by forming a team led by Vice President Nyan Htun.

Parliament formed the Farmland Investigation Commission in July 2012. Eight months later, the commission submitted its report on land-grabbing by the military, and subsequent reports detailed similar confiscations by government agencies and local authorities across the country.

The initial report found that the military had forcibly seized about 250,000 acres of farmland from villagers, and lawmakers from the land-grab commission later said they had fielded more than 6,000 complaints on the broader issue.

Nearly a year since the report was issued, Lower House lawmaker Banyar Aung Moe criticized government action on the land-grab cases as delayed.

“Since the ministries have been unable to solve the problems in a timely manner, we have heard of problems on the ground,” said Banyar Aung Moe, from the All Mon Region Democracy Party, referring to protests demanding the return of confiscated lands.

“Also, the ‘resolved’ cases are not cleared; most farmers still haven’t gotten their lands back because the relevant ministries are not doing their jobs.”

Despite the government’s claim that the issue is being handled, Banyar Aung Moe said lawmakers were fielding reports from constituents that “some lands are now being seized again.”

Parliament will have further discussions to determine how to act against relevant authorities if the problems are not resolved within the set deadlines, lawmakers said.