Govt land confiscation commission lacks teeth

Government officials, from Nay Pyi Taw, working for the land confiscation investigation commission team and led by Dr. Htay Win were in Hpa-an last week on a fact finding mission. The investigation team met with landowners who alleged their land had been confiscated.

Local farmers confirmed that the Nay Pyi Taw investigation officials called them to the Hap-an District administration office on May 31 to discuss their land confiscation claims.

U Maung Aye, a farmer who had his farmland confiscated, said that the investigation commission officials focused their attention on a case of where 7,000 acres of farmland was alleged to be confiscated by government officials running the Bawa Thit Number 7 prison camp located in Latkanar, Hpa-an Township.

U Maung Aye told Karen News that since his farmland was confiscated, he has had trouble earning a living.

“They [prison camp official] confiscated our lands and use it to make bricks, produce charcoal and plant rubber trees. Our families face difficulties because we have no land to work on. As a result, our sons and daughter, who are still under age, have to go and work in Thailand illegally.”

The land confiscation investigation commission led by Dr. Htay Win told farmers that the commission, could only do a survey to collect information and evidence from both sides and stressed that they [commission] do not have the authority to make decision on the cases.

The farmer said the commission leader Dr. Htay Win told him that “we come and collect facts and evidences from both sides. We don’t have the authority to make final decisions. The collected information has to be analyzed in Nay Pyi Taw. So, we would like farmers to be patient during the process.”

The Transnational Institute (TNI), based in Holland, an independent, international research and policy think-tank released a report in February this year – Developing Disparity – Regional Investment in Burma’s Borderlands, that highlights the inability of the land confiscation commission to deal with the high number of complaints it has received.

“In July 2012 a bill was passed to establish a Land Acquisition Investigation Commission to improve the government’s handling of land grabs. Although the commission has no decision-making power, the members are responsible for accepting cases of land conflict and submitting a summary report to the President’s office within one year. After a few months, more than 2,000 cases had been received. 220 Individual MPs are also constantly receiving complaints about land conflicts from their constituents. One MP stated in July 2012 that he had received over 250 complaints from farmers about the confiscation of their farmlands.”

Daw Nan Say Awar, a member of the Karen State parliament from Pyithu Hluttaw [House of Representatives] said that several cases of land confiscations in Myawaddy Township, Kawkareik Township, Halingbwe Township and Hpa-an Township in Karen State, the people responsible for the theft are government officials.

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