Farmers fence off government land

Farmers who have fenced off government-owned land in Yangon Region which they say rightfully belongs to them may soon be facing legal action, according to the regional Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development.

On empty plots of land in Yangon that the government says it owns but that it does not use, farmers and their supporters have erected signboards and fences in their bid to retrieve the lands they say they have worked for generations.

“The chief minister has already said on May 26 that if the farmers trespass, action would be taken against them according to the law. Issues like this will be reported to regional governments through the National Land Use Committee,” said U Yu Khaing, director of the department.

Under the State Law and Order Restoration Council in the 1990s, many acres of land were confiscated from farmers on government orders for development projects, many of which were never implemented.

Farmers’ rights advocate and lawyer U Pho Phyu said that instead of demarcating these lands illegally, farmers should use the law to regain access to the plots.

“Farmers who want their lands back should apply for it legally. If they build fences on government-owned land, they could be sued as trespassers or face other action,” he said.

The farmers said their current approach was the only option since the former government did not give them alternative plots of land or pay them sufficient compensation, if any at all.

“We have applied for ownership documents. We want the land back because it’s our ancestral land. Marking boundaries and putting up signboards is only to prove that we owned it. We did not get any compensation under the former government,” said U Aung Tun, a farmer in South Dagon township.

U Khin Shwe, president of the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA) and chair of Zaykabar Construction, said the previous government ignored land rights disputes that now pose a challenge for the current administration, especially in the Mingaladon industrial zone.

“There are a lot of people who put up fences and signboards in Mingaladon industrial zone. They are a group of people who have no legal documents,” he said.

“Some people pretending to be farmers fence off the land, sell it and then run off with the money. After that, the person who bought the land faces trouble with the government. It will be hard for the new government to manage those issues because the former government ignored them. They are asking for big amounts of money.”

 

Source: Myanmar Times

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