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Farmland seized for tourist development

Dec 23, 2008 (DVB), Nearly six acres of farmland near Htaungwat village in Karen state have been taken over by a businessman named Ngwe Moe from Moulmein with the help of authorities to build hotels.

The farms are situated on the Rangoon, Pa-an highway near the bridge over the Salween river and command a view of the famous Zwekapin mount to the east.

Farmers were told they would be given 25 million kyat in compensation by the authorities but they have not received anything.

When they tried to follow up the matter with the relevant authorities none of the departments they approached would accept any responsibility, a farmer told DVB.

"They told us that the farms were confiscated under orders from the top," the farmer said.

"And when we asked the district authorities, they told us to go to the land survey department and they in turn told us to go to the township chair and so on," he said.

"We went to see the hotel owner and he said we should get compensation from the government as he had already paid what it was worth."

The hotels are currently under construction according to another source who did not want to be identified.

He said the authorities were continuing to confiscate farmland in other regions and selling them on as revenues from other natural resources are drying up.

"Big companies are the worst in trying to acquire lands now. They are trying to confiscate as much as they can," he said.

"The situation varies between regions, but it is worse in areas where internal conflicts are most intense."

Aung Htoo of the Burma Lawyers' Council said the farmers could sue the government for taking their land illegally if they can prove the land belonged to their ancestors or if they have been living there for more than 20 or 30 years.

"They could also sue the authorities concerned based on the way their lands were confiscated," Aung Htoo said.

He advised the farmers to use legal means to challenge the land seizure and also to garner international support for their case to put pressure on the government.

Reporting by Nam Kham Kaew

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