Villagers in Karen State have lodged a protest to their local land registration office against applications by companies and investors to take community land for development projects.
The villagers from Minekan, Hpa-an Township, submitted an letter to the township land registration office on May 27 protesting that applications for permits to grow long-term crops in unclaimed forest land was owned by the local community and was open for investors or companies.
Saw Akyaw a leader in the Minekan village group, said companies had applied for permits to the Agricultural and Irrigation Department, Land registration Department in Karen State to grow rubber and other long term crops.
Villagers claim the targeted land is in the eastern part of Patoke that is part of Minekan village. Village leaders said they had received a letter from the township land registration office that stated that if the villagers had objections to the companies’ applications could respond.
Saw Akyaw told Karen News the lands were owned by the community.
“We thought we already bought these land from the DKBA, from Major Ba Thein, with proper land title and contract. We were told by the [registration] office, that these lands were considered ‘unused’ and the companies are in the process of acquiring permits to use the land. Now that we know, we local people want our land back. We protect because we didn’t’ get permits.
Saw Adee, a Minekan villager, said. “We are dependent on this forest. Without the forest, we won’t be able to collect wood, leaves for our roofs, mushrooms and other food. If the companies are using it, we won’t be able to go freely there [forest]. We are protesting against the companies coming to work here. “
According to the letter the villagers received from the township land registration office, there are currently nine individuals who have applied for a total of 469.83 acres in the areas – U Nein Chan Myint, U Kyaw Lwam Mine, Daw Su Win Thein, Daw Tay Tay Ye, U Hla Min Paing, Daw Moe Moe Oo, Lwam Moe Hein Company, U Kyaw Thein and Daw Thaint Thaint Oo,.
Villagers claim that while some companies are still in the process of applying for a legal permit, on the others such as the Kyaw Lwam Moe Company has already started its cassava plantation on February 14, this year.
Kyaw Zyor Htet, a site manager from the Kyaw Lwam Moe Company said.
“This Company applied for 500 acres here. The reason for our application is to grow cassava. This year, we will grow as much as we can. I applied here a long time ago, but I just started the operation on February 14, 2015.”
In their protest letter to the township land registration management department, villagers from Minekan, Thee Po Lone, Poptaw, Mezan and Kawku, said that that they rely for their livelihoods from collecting seasonal fruits, vegetable and wood from the disputed forest land.