Phakat village plea to get their land back falls on deaf ears

Villagers from Hpa-an Township have appealed for the second time in a letter sent to President U Thein Sein for the government’s land confiscation commission to investigate claims that their lands were illegally taken by government authorities. The villagers, from Phakat, sent their latest letter to the President on June 11.

Phakat villagers said that 79 plots of land were confiscated for the building of the Hpa-an, Salween Bridge in 1994, and that they have received official notification that lands outside of the area needed by the bridge would be returned to them.

The Phakat villagers sent their first letter to President U Thein Sein on October 2012, but have received no response from either written complaint.

Speaking to Karen News, a Phakat villager, who asked not to be named, said.

“The investigation team from Nay Pyi Taw came once, but nothing has changed. So, all of the Phakat villagers have got together to send a second letter about our land confiscation problems to the President.”

The villager said that there were 42 land plots outside of the bridge boundaries and the original landowners are now demanding their lands be returned to them. Villagers have been told that the Karen State Minister, U Zaw Min, granted permission, on September 25, 2012, to the Kyaw Lwan Mwe Company to work the villagers lands.

Speaking to Karen News, S’ Maung Maung Kyi, a retired teacher at the Phakat village high school said.

“We demand our lands back according to the law. President U Thein Sein, has the final responsibility for the Karen State Chief Minister actions.”

S’ Maung Maung Kyi pointed out that according to Article 261 (b), sub-section (1) of the 2008 Constitution, President U Thein Sein, directly appoints the Chief Minister. S’ Maung Maung Kyi says that the Chief Minister of Karen State, U Zaw Min, has neglect the villagers land confiscation issue, therefore the responsibility now falls on the President.

S’ Maung Maung Kyi said that there is a need for transparency and justice in Burma and if there is not, as in the Phakat land confiscation issue, it makes it hard for people in Karen State to believe in the government.

Local sources allege that some staff in the Karen State administration department has gained benefits for themselves from the Phakat village confiscated lands. Villagers claim that department staff had ‘businesses’ in agriculture, sand and rock projects and cement. Villagers claim since they sent their letter to the President local department staff have abolish their businesses.

Villagers said that since the Karen State Chief Minister, U Zaw Min, gave his permission to the Kyaw Lwan Mwe Company, the confiscated lands have been fenced.

Previously, over 90 households where forced to relocate when the former military regime confiscated the 97 plots of land in Phakat for the 1994 building of the Hpa-an Salween Bridge.

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