Burma Army returns confiscated farmland — at a price

Following a number of reports and demands made to the Burma Army chief-of-staff for their confiscated lands to be returned to them, 70 farmers from Yay Twin Gone village tract, Twantay Township, have won the right to work their land.

Local sources said that farmers have been fighting to have their confiscation land returned to them since early April. On June 2nd, the 70 landowners were given official permission to work on their farmlands.

A farmer from Kyaunk Gone village in Twantay Township spoke to Karen News about their victory.

“We will work on our land – as much as is returned to us. Not only the owners of the returned confiscated farmlands will work on the returned farms – we will share with other farmers. We have decided to work together – to come and plough the farmland together.”

Farmers say even though Burma Army officers promised to let land owners re-work 168 acres of confiscated farmlands, the concession came at a price and was only given to landowners who paid higher taxes or a higher ‘leasing fee’.

Saw TunTun Win, a farmer whose farmland was confiscated, spoke to Karen News about the payment farmers had to make to be allowed to work on their land.

“We would pay the leasing cost if necessary just to able to work on our own land. Now, a concession has been given to other farmers. When I say other farmers, they are only people from our village. We are the same Karen people and it seems they [army officers] are trying to make us enemies. As we are farmers, if we don’t have farmland to work on, what else we are going to do?”

Saw Tun Tun Win added that some percentage of the leasing costs have been returned by army officers to the farmland owners, but the landowners are made to contribute money for army rations, leaving villagers with little. Saw Tun Tun said that villagers are supplementing their food supplies by catching fishes and frogs, but the Burma Army has placed travel restrictions on them.

Village sources said that to tackle the land confiscation issue, Mahn Ohn Mhyint Thein, a member of the Karen People Party (KPP) labor and farmers committee met and discussed with Lance Corporal Than Soe, a Burma Army representative on land issues. Lance Corporal Than Soe suggested Mahn Ohn Myint Thein meet with his senior officers to resolve the issue.

Karen News is led to understand that a large farming concession holder is working the confiscated farmland after coming to a leasing arrangement with senior Burma Army officers.

The Yay Twin Gone village track includes, Kwin Pouk, Ywar Pone, Kwan Chan Gone, Tawon Taw, Tung Gone and That Thit villages. Villagers said that the Karen People Party (KPP) has taken the land confiscation issue and is trying to help farmers’ from these villages.

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