Burma’s nominally civilian government is working to ensure that confiscated farmland across the country is returned to its original or rightful owners before the end of its term in 2015, said ministers at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday, 27 September.
“We will work to implement this before the end of the current government term and also to prevent land disputes in the future,” said Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry Win Tun. “We will abide by the rules and regulations concerning land seizures and negotiate compensation with the original owners of the land. I believe there should be no dispute if farmers are compensated accordingly to the market price.”
He added that the current government harbours no intentions of confiscating land owned by members of the public. “Moreover, we are even looking to allocate forest areas to those who don’t own any land,” he said.
The press conference was held by committee members of the Land Utilisation Management Central Committee in Naypyidaw, which was formed by parliament on 16 September “with the aim of dealing with confiscated farmlands and other lands in the nation in a just and fair manner.”
It was revealed at Friday’s press conference at the Environmental Conservation and Forestry Ministry that 745 individual complaints had been lodged involving land confiscations by companies for development projects under the previously military regime.
Ye Htut, the deputy minister of information, said: “If a government ministry or a company that confiscated an area of land wishes to continue using said land, they must provide solid evidence that the land has been continuously utilised. Otherwise it will be returned it to the original owner. Since such lands were confiscated under the order of the previous government, it shall be returned to the government’s land management authorities. The original owners are to reclaim their land through village-level authorities. If the land in question is vacant or for pasture, then the committee will decide on it.”
Concerning a much publicised case in eastern Rangoon where locals had previously taken to the streets to protest against their land confiscations, Ye Htut said that the government was looking to return the disputed lands in question to the original farmers in Thingangyun township’s Michaungkan ward, and provide compensation to the previous owners of land where factories were already built.
The officials from the Land Utilisation Management Central Committee took the opportunity on Friday to publicly call on plaintiffs and those who believed they were victims of land grabs to provide authorities with as much documentary evidence as possible of their original ownership.