Conflicts over land have increase since last year’s ceasefire signed between the Karen National Union and the government as ‘development projects’ multiply.
In a recent incident villagers claim that the village chief from Mayan Tapin village, Tontay Township, failed to mediate on land disputes between two villagers – Saw Pa Way and U Mya Thein. U Mya Thein is alleged to have sold land, including land that belonged to Saw Pa Way, to a company.
In an attempt to resolve the dispute, last week, the Township Land Registration made an appointment with the Mayan Tapin village chief, U Tin Oo to mediate and discuss the issue together with the two villagers at the centre of the dispute. But village chief, U Tin Oo, failed to show up at the hearing.
Village sources claim that the land dispute began when U Mya Thein, who sold his rubber plantation, including the adjoining 7.6 acres plantation owned by Saw Pa Way, to the owner of the Shwe Ye Win whiskey factory.
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Pa Way said.
“When I reported the case to the Township Land Registration Office, officials just told me not to worry and to take it easy. They said they would record the case and would make sure no one would work on the land until the dispute is settled.”
Saw Pa Way said that, despite the ban put on the use by officials from the Land Registration Office, Shwe Ye Win whiskey factory staff have begun working on the land and planting more rubber trees on Saw Pa Way’s land.
Mahn Ohn Myint Thein, a farmer and land right activist, based in the Southern Yangon District, said the case was an example of a common tactic played together by business people and officials to trick farmers out of their land.
“Laws are not useful everywhere. The Land Registration Office, the village chief and the business people are exploiting the issue. The ordinary people who do not have knowledge [of the laws] are exploited. Shwe Ye Win’s owner, U Aye Soe [who bought the land], told his workers to continue working even it is on the prohibited land.”
Villager said this is not the first time land was taken in this way – more than 10-acres of plantation land belong to four villagers in Mayan Tapin were taken and sold – all of the villagers lost their lands.
Saw Pa Way has been paying taxes for his land and he had registration papers over the years, until 2012.
A recent report by the Karen Human Rights Group – ‘Losing Ground’ – states that villagers need to be aware that two new laws, the Vacant Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law and the Farmland Law, passed by Myanmar’s parliament in March 2012, indicates that land left fallow could be grabbed. The KHRG report found that new laws allow the government to transfer ”wasteland” to companies for the ”purpose of agriculture production, livestock farming and aquaculture, mining and other purposes deemed to be in the long term national interest of the State or the public without any requirement to consult the local communities in the project area”.