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A stand-off between local farmers in Mandalay division’s Thabeikkyin township and a private mining company is intensifying after rumours circulate that gold deposits reside in the area.
Kyaw Mann, one of five local farmers locked in the dispute with the Thein Than Kabar Company, said they have the right to continue working the land that they have been farming for more than 15 years.
After unconfirmed reports surfaced that gold dust had been discovered in the area, Thein Than Kabar along with local authorities, who are backing the project, have been seeking to take control of the property.
“We have been cultivating this land for 15 years and now the [company] wants to take it over for gold mining,” said Kyaw Mann.
“They came to [survey] the land on July 27 and on August 17, they destroyed the bean crops and are now beginning construction.”
The local farmer said he had filed a suit against the company’s owner to recover the damages he incurred on his seven-acre farm.
Officials from Thein Than Kabar claim the farmers are not the owners of the property because they lack an official land grant.
“The land is reserved for [prospecting] by Major Soe Lwin. I’m his assistant. He’s retired. He owns the Thein Than Kabar Company. Since U Kyaw Mann has [stayed on] the land, he’s technically stealing the gold, while we are in an official joint venture with the state,” said an unnamed official from Thein Than Kabar during an interview with DVB.
“So you need to have a think whether we’re abusing his rights or he is just an [illegal] gold digger.”
With Burma primed for massive investment following the continual removal of western sanctions, land grabs have been on the rise amid the country’s shaky legal infrastructure that experts say allows for forced relocation to continue.
However, local farmers are feeling increasingly empowered in the absence of military rule to stand up against development projects that threaten to forcibly remove them off their land.
In Sagaing division’s Monywa township, mass protests against a controversial copper mine project have made international headlines as farmers continue to rally against forced relocation.