Forced to Pay to Farm Their Own Land, Villagers Now Demand Burma Army Returns Their Confiscated Land

War Zwin villagers in Pulaw Township, Tannitharyi Division want their confiscated lands return to them. The villagers’ lands were taken in 2001by Burma Army to make way for the No.12 Secondary Military Training School.

Saw Hser K’paw Doh, a War Zwin villager told Karen News that a petition demanding their land be returned was sent to Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Army in early February, 2016.

“We sent a letter to the Commander-in-Chief on the 4th of February. We also sent copies to the departments of the Regional government, to the liaison officers of the KNU, to [Myanmar] Peace Centre, to the NLD and to the Minister for Karen Affairs. We believe that they would do their best for us.”

Villagers said that their confiscated lands, that included orchards and gardens, were their main source of income.

Villagers told Karen News that after the Burma Army confiscated their land, from 2001 to 2006 they were allowed to work on their own land, but only if they paid 2 million Kyat a year to the headmaster of the military school.

Villagers said from the 22 of June, 2012, the village land owners were warned and threatened by the headmaster of the military school, Zaw Than Myint, that if they trespassed on the confiscated land they would be driven out of the village and killed. The headmaster then forced land owners to sign a document that their lands were owned by the Burma Army.

Saw Htoo Eh Moo, a villager whose garden was confiscated, told Karen News that the army training school was greedy, confiscating more land than they need.

“More than four acres of my gardens was among the confiscated gardens. I grew betel nut, dog-fruit and cashews. There is a whole mountain between our garden and the training school. What we want back, is only from our side of the mountain. They [military school] have over 3,000 acres on the other side of the mountain. They took 600 acres from our side of the mountain. We hear land and gardens have been returned to their owners in other places – we want ours back, too.”

Local sources said that the villagers want their land back because they established their plantation over many years. Villagers said it took years to get the benefit and to be able to earn a living from crops such as betel nut, dog-fruit, cashew, rambutan, durian and mangosteen.

The confiscated lands were owned by 49 farmers and another 300 family’s members. Villagers said their ancestors have lived on the land for as long as 300 years, as it was passed on from generation to generation.

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