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Villagers of Kholam in southern Shan State have been told they will lose access to farmland at some point between this year and 2015. The construction of a military golf course on lands occupied by the Shan villagers has already resulted in the displacement of farmers.
Kyaung Wanna, a villager from Wan Pyhee tract in Khloam township said more than 100 families are threatened by the golf course intended for high ranking military officers. Kyaung Wanna himself has already been expelled from his land.
“I lost all my 10 acres” Kyaung Wanna began. “It includes my farm, garden and paddy fields. I can’t go to my farm. Soldiers are guarding the area. I have nowhere to work. Everybody is facing problems, all of in us the district,” he said.
Kyaung Wanna said that villagers in the area had been farming the land for the last 20 years. Now they are being told it belongs to the army. “It will be extremely difficult for the villagers to start from the beginning for a living again” he continued.
On 12 March, local authorities took villagers to the township administration office and asked them to sign declarations showing they understood they would be charged with trespassing should they return to the land once the army has claimed it and construction begins.
According to the Shan National Development Party (SNDP), the villagers refused to sign the declarations due to a lack of compensation for lost land. The villagers then sought SNDP advice.
Tun Lwin, chairman of the SNDP, told DVB that according to their interviews with villagers, 130 people have lost their share in a total of 80 acres seized. The SNDP submitted their information in a letter to the Chief Minister of Shan State on Monday.
Tun Lwin confirmed that among the now displaced villagers were people who had fled Narpwe in 1996, when the Burmese military first implemented the “four-cuts” strategy in Shan State. The strategy was designed to cut the food, information, communication and recruitment chains for ethnic armed rebel groups. The tactic was to scorch local villages.
Earlier this month the Shan Human Rights Foundation produced a document alleging locals had been tortured as villages were cleared out to be used as springboards for a Burmese army attack on a Shan State Army-North position.