Some 100 representatives from civil society organizations, political parties and farmers across Shan State held a press conference today in state capital Taunggyi, demanding the current National League for Democracy (NLD) government take action on land seizures.
According to a report conducted in April this year by the Ethnic Peace and Resources Project (EPRP), the Tai Youth Organization, and the We Are Tai group, a total of more than 10,000 acres of villagers’ land in Shan State have been confiscated by the Burmese military, business firms, and local ethnic armed groups.
“Within 18 townships, at least 11,000 acres of land have been seized to date,” said Nang Kaysi, one of the organizers of the event, and a representative of the EPRP, an organization that works to support the peace process in Burma.
“Land grabs have occurred in Namkham, Muse, Hsewi, Kutkhai, Sipaw, Kyaukme, Namtu and Mongmit townships in northern Shan State; in Hopong, Panglaung, Mongpawn, Namsang, Loilem, Panglong and in Taunggyi townships in southern Shan State; and in Tachileik Township in eastern Shan State,” she said.
During the decades of rule by Burma’s military junta, arbitrary land confiscation was a common complaint across the country. 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.
According to Sai Kham Loon, a resident of Panglaung Township, the Burmese military seized his land in 1990 when they set up a base in the town.
“The Tatmadaw [government forces] seized our lands back in 1991,” he said. “Since then, we have had to look elsewhere for our livelihoods.
“We want to tell the government that we have been suffering for a long time,” he added.
In late September, Shan Herald reported that people in southern Shan State’s Pai Khun Township had staged a protest, demanding the return of lands that had been seized by the Burmese military more than 20 years before.
Speaking to Shan Herald at this morning’s press conference in Taunggyi, organizer Nang Kaysi said, “We call for the government to protect people’s property, as well as to hand back the lands [that were seized] and pay compensation according to the number of years they have lost.”
She added: “The policy of forcible and arbitrary land grabbing should never happen again.”
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