About 300 farmers from Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan township demonstrated last Friday in front of a private company that allegedly confiscated their land.
The protestors, with official approval from authorities, rallied in front of Pinlae Kothwe (Nine Seas) Company’s, which was one of 16 companies that seized nearly 10,000 acres of the farmer’s land.
The demonstration marked the country’s second legal protest held in the past week, following a rally organized by a group of farmers from Mingaladon township, after the introduction of the Peacefully Assembly and Procession bylaws.
One of the paricipants, U Nyo, said he was satisfied with the protest and was hopeful that the farmers would have their land returned.
“I would like to call on the parliament to specify farmers’ rights and to help solve people’s social woes,” said U Nyo.
Pho Phyu, an attorney and well-known advocate for farmers’ rights who organised the protest, said Pinlae Kothwe seized about 1,000 acres of land from the farmers.
“We have made the people’s voice reach into the parliament and I would like to say that the parliament is and should be capable of helping solve the people’s woes,” said Pho Phyu.
According to unofficial estimates, during the massive land grabs that occurred under the previous junta’s reign about nine million acres of land was seized across the country.
Pegu Division’s Security and Border Affairs Minister and former colonel Thet Htun said farmers in Pandaung township would be sued if they continued to plough land that had been confiscated by the army.
During the minister’s visit to Pandaung on 18 July he met with farmers from Mangyibinkwin and Daungtaik village and told them they would prosecuted if they continued to defiantly plough the land.
The township administration’s director, police, land department officials and military representatives who manage the weapons factory being built on the land also attended the meeting.
“The [minister] said the land is now army-owned because it has already been approved as an La Na-39 [the official form to convert farmland for other purposes] and a security zone has been specified there,” said one of the farmers at the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“He said troops have been ordered to legally arrest anyone who ploughs the land in the future.”
The farmer said he had been forced to rent a four-acre plot that he previously worked after the army confiscated the land in 1989 without paying compensation.
“It was confiscated in 1989 and I had to work there as a tenant, but [the army] took it completely in 2010 – not only from me, there are also people who had their land completely taken over in 2004 and 2009,” said the farmer
Prior to the minister’s visit in the town, seven farmers were briefly detained by the army for trespassing on 12 July when they walked across the confiscated property to the Land Committee office where officials had summoned them.
Four farmers from Daungtaik and two farmers from nearby Paegyi village were sued by the army last month for trespassing after tilling confiscated land.
-Ko Htwe Aye Nai and Naw Noreen contributed reporting