Some 30 local residents of Hsipaw Township in northern Shan State marched through the streets on Thursday, demanding the return of lands which were seized by the previous military government.
About 30 villagers from Kha Laing in Hsipaw Township marched on the street on April 27, demanding their lands back.
According to a locally based Shan Herald reporter: “There were about 30 villagers from Kha Laing protesting in the street. They were calling for the Shan State chief minister to review the case, saying that their lands were confiscated by the army more than 30 years ago.”
The villagers claim their land collectively covered about 11 acres, and that the military used it to house a sawmill.
“The sawmill ceased operating about seven years ago, and now about 15 villagers are claiming their lands back,” the reporter said. “In 2014, they also lodged a complaint, urging the authorities to allow them to grow crops on the land.”
During the era of the military junta, arbitrary seizures of farmers’ lands were common across the country, particularly in Shan State. By the 2000s, much of the seized land had been rented out to agri-business firms, and a massive government campaign was initiated to encourage investment in the harvesting of jatropha oil. Ultimately, the scheme failed; investors lost great sums of money, while farmers lost land and livelihoods.
Many aggrieved farmers have taken steps to reclaim their lands since the National League for Democracy came to power a little over a year ago. However, almost all report that they have been unsuccessful in their quest and that little has changed under Aung San Suu Kyi.
On December 15, Shan Herald reported that a 74-year-old villager in southern Shan State’s Mongpan Township collapsed and died after a construction company refused to pay compensation for land it had seized from him.
Nang Kaysi of the Ethnic Peace and Resources Project (EPRP), an organization that works to support the peace process in Burma, told Shan Herald that, according to their survey, a total of about 11,000 acres of farmland have been seized from within 18 townships across Shan State.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)