Farmers left in debt after land seizures

Jun 25, 2008 (DVB), Thousands of acres of privately-owned farmland in Bogalay have been seized by authorities after the farmers had already received farming equipment and seeds bought on credit from the government.

The township agricultural department recently supplied the farmers with the equipment and seeds before the farmers were told their lands would be seized, according to one local farmer.

"Now we have a debt of about 1.5 million kyat each and we have to repay it within three years," the farmer said.

"And now we have tillers but no farmland to use them on, but we can't return them to the agricultural department and we can't sell them."

The farmer said the authorities had blamed the possibility of another cyclone for the seizures.

"The authorities told us it was dangerous for us to live on the farmlands just in case another cyclone hit the area, so they kicked us all off the land and seized it," he said.

"We lost all our rice crops from last year and the money we made from them after the cyclone, and now we won't be able to do our farming this year either, and that's going to cause us a lot of trouble."

The farmer said Htoo Trading company, which is owned by Tay Za, a Burmese tycoon with close links to the ruling junta, has now promised to build new houses near Kyein Chaung Gyi village for the farmers whose lands have been seized and villagers who have been forced to move out of the area.

Htoo Trading was given a contract by the government for reconstruction work in the Irrawaddy delta, but local residents worried that the company would take advantage of the situation for its own profit because of its close links to the regime.

Another local farmer said farmlands had been seized from Kyarkuyal, Danyinphyu, Mondinegyi, Mondinelay, Salugyi, Salulay, Tayawchaung, Myarchaung and Narnapauk villages, all in Bogalay township.

"It seems like they are going to work on the farms themselves," the farmer said.

"They have forced everyone out of the villages and seized the land for the government," he said.

"Now the farmers have received all the tillers under the credit system and so they are facing difficulties after losing their land."

The farmer criticised the government for not only neglecting local farmers after the cyclone but now also exacerbating their problems by seizing their land.

A third farmer urged the government to allow farmers to work on the land again so that they could begin to rebuild their lives.

"We have lost our families, our houses, everything," he said.

"These farmlands are the only thing we have left, and we will be in deep trouble if we are not allowed to work on these farms."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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