Villagers fear army will force land takeover

Residents of a village in the Kawkareik Township say that there are plans by the Burma Army and the Border Guard Force to confiscate 500 acres of their land to develop a military camp.

The *Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) has been told the land has already been surveyed and the head of the village has told plantation and paddy farm owners of the pending confiscation.

The villagers reported that approximately 167 acres of agricultural land, including seven rubber plantations, nine paddy farms, and seventeen betel nut and durian plantations belonging to 26 residents of the village were among those already surveyed.

The camp will be used to house the families of the Border Guard Force #1022 battalion. According to the villagers, the area has already been surveyed and would soon be confiscated. They also fear that further land seizure is planned.

A villager told KHRG that they feared the BGF and the Burma Army would confiscate all their land.

“Three years ago I planted 2,000 plants, and this year I planted more [than] 1,000 plants, so in all there are 3,000 rubber plants… The operation commander came to see village head, and the village head called us let us know… They’ll build up both an army camp and their houses, and the battalion…When they come to base here, their families and children will follow and come to stay with them.”

It is understood that rubber plantation owners have been told they would be compensated. However villagers are collectively refusing compensation and staying clear of meetings at which they fear they will be ordered to sign over their land.

The villagers that spoke with KHRG said they believed the Burma Army intended to take over their land soon after the end of the annual monsoon, and that this would seriously undermine livelihoods in a community in which many villagers depended on subsistence agriculture on established land.

*The report is based on information collected by KHRG researchers in September and October 2011, including five interviews with residents of the village in Kawkareik Township, 91 photographs of the area, and a written record of lands earmarked for confiscation. To see the full KHRG report click here.

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