Bago authorities seize land from farmers

Jan 29, 2008 (DVB), Farmers in Shwe Kyin township, Bago division, have complained that local authorities have forcedly seized their lands and sold them on to other individuals.

U Htay Lwin, a resident farmer from West village in Shwe Kyin township, said the former Village Peace and Development Council chairman seized 1.5 acres of his farmland near Shwe Kyin creek last year and sold it to another man.

"In 2006, I was granted permission by the government to test-grow summer paddy on that land, and it was successful," said Htay Lwin.

"I started the second crop on 30 October 2007 but the VPDC officials pressured me to stop growing crops on the land as they said they had already sold it to a guy named Ko Kyi Soe," he said.

"They even threatened me, saying that they could get the police to arrest me if I continued with my cropping."

Htay Lwin said that after the VPDC officials failed to convince him to stop growing crops on the land, they asked the farm's new owner, Kyi Soe, to go to the farm and destroy the crops Htay Lwin had grown.

When Htay Lwin reported the matter to local police, they refused to open an investigation.

Since he lost his land, Htay Lwin has been doing casual labour to earn enough money for his own survival.

Meanwhile, residents in Nyaung Lay Pin have also complained about local authorities selling privately-owned farmlands and taking the money for themselves.

Ko Min Lwin, a resident of Nyaung Pin Pauk village, said that VPDC chairman U Aung Phyoe had sold 0.75 acres of farmland belonging to his father U Kyaw Myint.

U Aung Phyoe divided the land into five smaller plots and sold them for 30,000 kyat each.

Ko Min Lwin said the case was brought before the township court in June 2007 but did not receive any attention from the judges.

"They called for court hearings, but they never summoned the VPDC officials. They said they could not take it any further until they had been granted permission by the township PDC," said Ko Min Lwin.

"The VPDC officials appointed in 2007 are all a gang of robbers. It is as though the government has given them licence to rob, and the township-level authorities are protecting them."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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