Hundreds of Mae-ka-ne Residents Demand Return of Seized Lands

Residents of Mae-ka-ne Village under the Karen State’s Myawaddy Township held a peaceful demonstration on June 10 morning to demand the return of the farmlands that have been grabbed for development project.

The protest leader Naw Htoo Htoo said over 300 residents marched from Mae-ka-ne Village Sakhan Gone to Shwe Mya Sandi Thaba Thukha Pagoda during the protest.

“This area covers all of our in forests. We can’t stand it anymore since other people are building 20 to 30 houses per day in our village. [The buildings] have even reached the houses from our village. When we submitted the issue to the leaders, they told us that they will resolve it but they still haven’t resolved it up to now. So, the residents have to stage the protest on our own,” she told Karen News.

Local residents said they have submitted the complaints to respective governments including the Karen State Chief Minister and the State Security and Border Affairs Minister twice in 2015 to demand the return of the farmlands that have been unfairly seized for Shwe Mya Sandi housing project, but no progress has been made.

“We always submit the complaint. Nothing has been changed during the administration of Chief Minister U Zaw Min. During the NLD (National League for Democracy) administration, we submitted the complaint to the state chief minister on June 1, 2016 and July 12, 2017, but there still have not been any changes so we can’t stand it anymore,” Naw Htoo Htoo continued.

During the protest, the local residents called for the return of the seized lands to the original owners, denounced Lt Nyi Nyi from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) for unfairly seizing the farmlands using Shwe Mya Sandi project as the reason, and urged respective authorities to immediately resolve the unjust seizure of farmlands in inner Mae-ka-ne area.

“This area belongs to our grandparents. We can’t stand them working on our land. If possible, we want all the leaders of the organizations….there are many organizations here….we want them to do their best to arrange the return of all the lands back to us. We are not taking another person’s land. We are taking our land back since this is the land of our grandparents,” said Saw Keh Doh, whose land has been seized.

A total of 371.71 acres of land from the former Mae-ka-ne Village were seized by the government in 2013 to implement a project. The local residents are planning to submit another complaint to the state chief minister over this issue.

According to latest list, the lands have been seized from 17 farmers.

The protest was held with permission from Myawaddy Township Police Commander’s office under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and officials from Myawaddy Police Station, No. 4 cantonment, and Border Guard Forces outpost took security duties during the protest.

The protesters said an unknown man called the protest leader U Thaung Hlaing thrice and made threats.

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