NAYPYITAW — The Tatmadaw will not hand over to farmers land it confiscated in Shan State’s Kyethi Township in the 1990s, Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Myint Nwe told Parliament on Tuesday after a lawmaker urged the Tatmadaw to return some 200 acres of land in the township.
The Tatmadaw will not return the land, because farmers cannot show ownership documents and the Home Affairs Ministry has issued land permits to the Tatmadaw for the areas in question, the deputy minister said.
During the Lower House session on Monday, lawmaker Sai Aung Kyaw of Kyethi Township asked if the Tatmadaw would return 31 acres in Nam Gon watershed area and 165 acres of farmers’ land confiscated by No. 131 Light Infantry Battalion in Kyethi Township.
“The 165 acres were used as rotating farmland, a graveyard or left vacant before the battalion confiscated it. As the graveyard had been moved to a new site, the military confiscated the land,” Maj-Gen Myint Nwe said.
Contradicting the lawmaker’s claim, the deputy defense minister said the areas confiscated by the battalion comprised 15 acres of rotating farmland, a 3.5-acre graveyard and 561.5 acres of vacant land. The military would not return it, he said.
Small-landholders who rely on the land for farming will face hardship as a result, said lawmaker Sai Aung Kyaw, adding that the farmers, being rural people, were not aware that the land needed to be registered for farming.
“The battalion confiscated the land a long time ago. They have done nothing with it — just fenced it off. I don’t know about their security point of view. I brought the case to the Parliament at the request of the farmers,” Sai Aung Kyaw told reporters.
However, Maj-Gen Myint Nwe said the Defense Ministry would return 31 acres of watershed area including Nam Gon Lake to the public.
The lake was renovated this year at a cost of 18.7 million kyats from the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation. The lake supplies drinking water, hydropower as well as irrigation water for Kyethi residents.
Under U Thein Sein’s administration, the Defense Ministry told Parliament that it would return more than 150,000 acres of confiscated land.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.