Villagers in Sagaing Division’s Kanbalu have reached an agreement with the Burmese army after negotiations over the return of their farmland, a local resident said on Monday.
According to villager Tin Myo, about 3,000 acres of farmland in Kanbalu’s Hyaukshai village was confiscated by the Burmese military in 1999 for a sugarcane plantation project. However, the regional military commander Gen. Min Naung has now agreed that a small amount of land will be returned to some of the villagers soon.
Tin Myo said that Min Naung had promised to return 384 acres of farmland to the villagers as a “first step”.
“Although not all the 3,000 acres was returned to us, at least we will have 384, so we are satisfied,” he said, adding that the locals don’t believe that they will ever get all 3,000 acres back.
Land-grabbing is a prevalent issue throughout Burma. In Sagaing Division, as many as 13,000 acres of land has been confiscated by the Burmese army since 1991. The majority of these plots are then in turn tilled by tenant farmers – often the very same ones who lost the land in the first place – hired by the army.
Since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein came into power in 2011, farmers have clamoured to authorities for the return of their land. Many have also started ploughing these disputed farmland in protest as an attempt to symbolise that it once belonged to them.
Most recently, about 400 farmers in Kanbalu were prosecuted for staging plough protests to demand for the return of their confiscated farmlands, and 57 of them have been jailed.