Villagers demanded the return of their land, confiscated by the Burma Army, with members of the Karen State Ceasefire Joint Monitoring Committee – State level (JMC-S) who held its first meeting with local villagers on April 26 at Kya-in Gyi village, in Kyain Seikgyi Township.
Sources from civil society organizations and local villagers, said the Burma Army had confiscated villagers’ land when the owners fled the armed conflict 20 years ago. As the political situation has changed, villagers now want their land back from the Burma Army.
Saw Mi Bwe, head of the Hgoo Phoh K’paw civil society organization told Karen News that as many as 200 acres of farm and plantation land owned by 16 villagers had been taken by the army. The Burma Army had set up their base on some of the land during the last 20 years.
Saw Mi Bwe said that recently, 60 acres of these confiscated land were returned to villagers following negotiations with the related government departments.
Saw Day Htoo, a villager from Kya-in Gyi village whose land was confiscated by the Burma Army told Karen News that since there is a ceasefire, the Burma Army doesn’t need the land for their camp.
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Day Htoo said.
“They [Burma army] confiscated five acres of my land. I planted rubber trees and it’s now ready for tapping. I also had lemons which are fully grown now. I want my land back.”
The Chairperson of the JMC-S and Commander of South Eastern Military Command, Division Commander General Myo Win, who joined the meeting, responded to villagers’ claims that the Army had taken the lands according to the vacant land and forest land laws with consultations with the relevant departments and land registration office. However, they will look into the cases and make verification to try to solve the issue.
“We have released lands that we don’t need or land outside of the base perimeter. There was some buildings being built for security reasons. There is also some land reserved for training purpose or future plan. For lands that are connected to the camp perimeter, we will have to make verification before we can release them,” General Myo Win told the villagers at the meeting.
The JMC-S Karen State was formed with representatives from government, army, ethnic armed organization, political party and civil society organizations after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed in October, 2015 in order to oversee the situation on the ground and to solve any problems.
The meeting was part of its activities to learn and discuss about issues with local villagers in different areas. The meeting was joined by 150 people including JMC-S members, local government officials and local villagers. The issues discussed at the meeting, included the JMC-S activities, land issues, administrations of forest and other taxation issues.