Local residents in six villages in Mandalay Division’s Myittha Township are staging a plough protest to demand the return of farmland that they claim belongs to them.
The land — which includes cotton fields around Lonkyaw, Petaw and Daweinn villages – was allegedly seized from the villagers in 1978 under the government of former dictator Gen. Ne Win, and was transferred to the Burmese army. Villagers say that the army were charging local farmers “tenant fees” in order for them to continue growing cotton.
Farmer Win Naing Oo said that the army had “tricked” the locals into clearing a section of the land, left unused and covered with wild plants, in exchange for its return.
However, despite this promise, the army has not transferred the ownership back to the villagers who originally owned it, according to another local farmer, Khin Tint, who also accused the Burmese Army of selling away their land.
“We are staging a plough protest as the Army is ignoring the government’s pledge to return the land to us,” Khin Tint said. “Moreover, they have been selling portions of the land which we have to buy back from them.”
Last week in Singtu Township, 800 farmers staged a similar protest to demand the return of 3,000 acres of farmland which was allegedly confiscated 40 years ago by the military junta. This type of demonstration has become increasingly common in Burma since President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian administration came into power in March 2011, highlighting the prevalent problem of extensive land grabs by the government during the decades of military rule.