The Burmese army plans to return less than 125,000 acres of farmland to its original owners, making up only less than a quarter of land seized across the country during decades of military rule, a Ministry of Defence official said on Wednesday.
Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, member of parliament Pe Than said that Brig-Gen Kyaw Nyunt, the deputy defence minister, told parliament that out of the total 473,979 acres of farmland seized across the country in 699 separate cases, the army intends to hold on to about 351,733 acres.
“According to the Ministry of Defence statement, the military commander-in-chief has adopted a policy that the army will only hold on to a specific amount of land required for military use, such as boot camps, and the rest will be returned,” Pe Than said.
Parliamentarians expressed disbelief over whether the 120,000 acres of land the army plans to return will end up with the original owners, given that they have, in the past, rented it out to private companies or charged original landowners a “tax” to use the land, said Pe Than.
“There were cases where some land was designated for return by government departments in rural areas, but handed over to false owners who have connections with officials,” he said. “We highlighted the fact that the land return programme is not being properly implemented on the ground despite promises from senior officials.”
The parliamentarians also urged the Burmese army to return land that was confiscated under a pretext of agricultural and livestock breeding projects.
This decision from the ministry comes after the parliament’s Land Grab Investigation Commission recommended the return of farmland to curb the rising number of protests. Over the past year, local farmers across the country have began demanding the return of their land by staging “plough protests”, a form of demonstration whereby farmers start working on disputed land to show that they were the original owners.