Bogalay farmers threatened with land confiscation

Aug 27, 2008 (DVB), Farmers in cyclone-hit Bogalay township in Irrawaddy division have said that local authorities are threatening to confiscate their land if they do not grow any rice this year.

The farmers have faced severe problems restarting farming on the land after Cyclone Nargis struck the region in May, destroying their paddy fields, and they have struggled with a lack of equipment and financial support.

Now U Tun Aung Khaing, chairman of Kyeinchaunggyi rice depot and the village authority chairman are reportedly threatening to confiscate the paddy fields from farmers who do not grow rice this year.

Kyeinchaunggyi depot buys rice from farmers in 41 villages in the area.

A farmer from Shwetoo village said locals were doing their best to sow paddy from the seeds sold to them by the local authorities, but the seeds the bought were all dead and they cannot afford to buy replacements.

The farmer told DVB that village farmers needed money to buy paddy seeds and fuel from the authorities.

"For rice seeds, they set the price at 450 kyat a bag. A bag is only 5 seik [about 5-8 kg]," the farmer said.

"They cut 3,200 kyat a gallon for oil. A gallon is only 5 bottles. The tillers have no wheels, they told us to find them ourselves. Where can we find them?"

The farmer said the villagers had not received any support from the government since the cyclone hit.

"We have never received anything free from them," the farmer said.

"When the storm struck, our possessions were lost and we had nothing left, we have been wasting our time waiting and waiting for something from them," he went on.

"Now, we are being forced to [grow rice] but we have lost all we had and can do nothing but sit around like [tree] stumps."

The farmer gave an example of buffalo which were donated or forcibly taken from other regions of Burma to help the farmers plough their paddy fields.

"I told them: 'The buffalo never reached us. Our tract chairman and a person called Maung Kala have rented them out'," the farmer said.

"They took these buffalo to their paddy fields and employed there first, and recorded them on the list as dead animals. I don't know where all the buffalo have gone."

The farmer said almost all the plants in the paddy fields had died and the locals had no plans to sow any more paddy seeds.

"We can't plant anything as the few things we had left have been wiped out. We all have had to stop our activities," he said.

"Even though they are threatening us, we will all just stop our activities in defiance."

The farmer said that even if the farmers did sow more seeds, it was unlikely that the plants would survive.

"Even if these paddy seeds are sown in the paddy fields, after four or five days the plants are not there anymore," the farmer said.

"The water is polluted, so the plants die from being attacked by chemicals. Normally at this time of year, there is no grass in the paddy fields. Now, there is more grass," he said.

"The rotten grass, the rotten human corpses and the rotten buffalo cause the earth to become uncultivable."

Despite these difficulties, the farmers are still coming under pressure to grow more crops.

"The village heads are threatening to confiscate our paddy fields by various means and forcing us to work on the fields but people can't do it," the farmer said.

"I was told that they have announced they will confiscate the paddy fields if people are unable to work on them."

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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