Incensed farmers wage war on local fishery

Farmers in central Burma’s Madaya have vandalised a local fishery pond in a show of anger over the reluctance of the fishery owners to negotiate a land ownership claim.

The destruction of the company’s property is the latest of a string of incidents in an on-going land dispute between the farmers and Sanpyo Fisheries.

On 1 June, the company’s owner failed to attend a scheduled meeting with the farmers, sending a representative in his place. Incensed, the farmers abandoned the meeting and started to demolish the pond’s barriers.

Residents from four villages in Madaya Township say that 300 acres of land were taken from them by the military in the early 1990’s. Sanpyo, who constructed a fish-breeding pond on the disputed grounds, are now leasing that land from the military.

Myint Myint Aye, a rights activist from the civil society group Meikhtila Public Assistance Network, has been assisting the farmers in their dispute. She says the company has built on land that was never was part of the initial scheme.

“The army had confiscated land in the area, but there are also around 100 acres that were not included in the confiscation scheme. No compensation was paid to the farmers.”

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Last month, Madaya police charged six farmers with crimes varying from criminal intimidation to vandalism and trespassing after the protest group broke through the pond’s barriers on 8 May.

The Madaya farmers stepped up their protests in January, buoyed by the establishment of a parliamentary land commission to compensate or administer the return of land confiscated under the previous military government. But their repeated calls to district authorities have gone unanswered.

The farmers have vowed to begin ploughing the land for cultivation if the situation remains unchanged.

“We do not want compensation,” said farmer Win Maung. “We just want our land back. Our families can then live off it for the rest of their lives.”

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