Tavoy farmers in land dispute stand-off

Tavoy farmers in land dispute stand-off

A stand-off was continuing on Wednesday between farmers and construction company workers at a development project in Tavoy, in Burma’s southern Tenasserim Division.

The farmers claim the 300 acres of land on which the project is being built was seized from them by the Burmese government in 1990.

Situated in Sanche ward in Tavoy, officially known as Dawei, the construction project was contracted to Toe Tat Kaung Construction Company by the government to make way for new government offices.

On Tuesday, a group of about 20 farmers confronted the construction workers who had arrived to erect markers on the land.

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“We grow crops on this land every year,” said Shwe Zin Yu, a local farmer. “We just started cultivating the land for this year’s harvest and the company have arrived to dump soil on the land to prevent us from using it.”

Su Su Swe of the Tavoy Women’s Union said the company is dumping soil on a plot of land originally owned by a local woman by the name of Mu Mu San, whose husband was jailed after confronting local authorities in June when they came to segregate the land.

“As the bulldozers rolled in, Ma Mu Mu San sat down on the ground and told them that she would rather they kill her. She didn’t even go back to her home for lunch as she was worried they might begin work he moment she left,” said Su Su Swe.

As of 1pm on Wednesday, the company workers were laying fences around the plot, while Su Su Swe and several villagers maintained a vigil inside the perimeter. Another group of farmers became embroiled in an argument with company staff, according to Sai Khe Hseng of a local environmental NGO.

Nine farmers, including Mu Mu San’s husband, were jailed and 10 others were fined 10,000 kyat (US$10) each in July after they confronted local authorities the month before.

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