Three farmers in southern Rakhine State claim they are being extorted by a local politician who is abusing his position of power to demand money from them, and have filed a complaint with the state chief minister’s office.
The dispute centers around a parcel of land near the Hngat Pyaw Chaung dam in Thandwe township.
“Five acres is the farmland and the rest are other plantations such as cashew, banana, bamboo, and seasonal vegetables,” said U Win Tin, on of the local residents involved in the case.
Along with U Win Tin, local residents U Win Thein and U Tin Naing Soe claim to have bought the farmland, but then after purchasing it, were told by the local MP that they needed to cough up further funds, on the pretense that they were occupying his ancestral land.
“The Hluttaw MP asked for K6.5 million from U Tin Naing Soe. He also asked K6.5 million from me and U Win Thein. The total amount [he is asking for] is K13 million,” said U Win Tin. “U Tin Naing Soe has given him K6.5 million. We have to pay the remaining K6.5 million at the end of this month.”
Responding to the allegations of extortion, U Win Naing, the Rakhine State Hluttaw MP from Thandwe Constituency – 1, said he was simply seeking compensation for his land, which the trio were trying to sell at profit.
“I asked money as appropriate for the land. I didn’t take it by force. I was only asking what I should get for my parent’s orange farm,” U Win Naing told Narinjara News on August 22.
U Tin Naing Soe claimed that the disputed land could not have been owned by U Win Naing’s ancestors, as the MP’s family’s plot was submerged by Hngat Pyaw Chaung dam. The farmers accused U Win Naing of abusing his authority to demand the money.
Fed up with what they felt was a racket, they filed a complaint to the chief minister on August 19. The three farmers say they are still awaiting a response, but hope the chief minister will settle the feud, which they claim has been going on since July, 2016.
“We are complaining because we had to pay the money even though we didn’t want to. U Win Naing lodged an objection with the [Department of] Land Records, which meant we couldn’t buy or sell [the land] without first paying him the money. The [Department of] Land Records and the village administrator stood on his side so it is difficult for us,” said U Win Tin.