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Over 200 acres of land seized by the military was given back to villagers in a ceremony in Irrawaddy Division’s Myanaung township on Thursday.
Thirty-nine farmers, from Daungkya, Thayettaw, Shwegyin and Htu village-tracts were handed back land they used to own, along with papers cited them as the new owners.
“The army’s 551st Infantry Battalion is returning 206 acres of land in Daungkya, six acres in Shwepyithar, as well as around 336 acres of forest land and 56.5 acres of vacant land,” said Myanaung township’s administrator, Min Min Tun.
He went on to say that any remaining land would be handed over to the township’s Land Utility Department.
Farmers, township officials, and regional parliament members attended the ceremony in Myanaung township.
In Myanaung township alone, over 2000 acres of land was taken by the military after 1988. Often villagers were forced to work the land for the army and their crops were taken as well.
Although over 200 acres of land has been returned, 1600 acres of confiscated is still owned by the military in the area.
For villager Khar Khin it was a day of mixed emotions.
“The army forced us to provide one basket of beans per family and also labour. I went with my husband to do the labour and he passed away there,” she said. “I am gratified but sad at the same time. But I’m happy to have the land returned.”
The issue of land confiscation is one of the largest problems facing Burma.
In many cases, villagers have lost their livelihoods, have been forcibly relocated and have received no compensation.
Protests have erupted all over the country and villagers are demanding the return of hundreds of thousands of acres of their land from the military, government, or private companies who are using it for investment projects.
Last week four farmers were charged with trespassing and vandalism after staging a plough protest on their confiscated land.
In 2012 the government enacted the Farm Land Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Law but both have proved to be inadequate at stopping continued land confiscation, and have even aided further land grabs.