Situation Update | Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District (October 2014)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in October 2014. It was written by a community member in Hpapun District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This report was received along with other information from Hpapun District, including 100 photographs.
I hear every day that government [officials] arbitrarily confiscate [land] if they need it in many different areas across Myanmar. This is according to the 2012 Land Management Policy. Land confiscation still happens in many different places in Myanmar and in many townships in Karen [Kayin] state. The lands are arbitrarily confiscated by Hpapun District’s Land Registration and Management Department (LRMD) and the Land Administrative Department (LAD) which is [administrated by] President U Thein Sein’s staff. They [LRMD and the Land Administrative Department] then gave it [the lands] to the battalions that are under Southeast Command Headquarters which are LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] #340, #341, #434 and #642. These lands were confiscated before the discussion concerning the ceasefire and now the lands have been indefinitely confiscated following the KNU [Karen Nation Union] and [Burma/Myanmar] government ceasefire agreement.
An obvious example occurred in A--- village, Ka Taing Ti village tract. Operations Commander (G3) Zaw Myo Tin, who operates in A--- military camp, illegally bought six acres of land with 1,000,000 kyat (US $974.95) from Saw B--- from A--- village. When he fenced the land he had bought, he fenced more than the six acres he bought, estimated to be sixty acres. He therefore forcibly confiscated the land around his [bought] land without letting the land owners know. The surrounding land owners therefore also lost their land. The land owners reported it to the resident KNU [Karen National Union] representative. Following these reports, he [Operations Commander (G3) Zaw Myo Tin] returned land to Saw C--- [whose confiscated land was nearby Saw B---’s]. [However], he forcibly asked him [Saw C---] to redeem his land for 2,500,000 kyat (US $2,434.88). Since Saw C--- was afraid of him, he paid as requested. Now, Saw C--- is in trouble, as he is in debt for 2,500,000 kyat.
The land owners gathered together and reported to the Burmese Parliament representative U Saing Than Naing to try and stop their land being forcibly confiscated. However, there has been no response yet. The land owners then made further reports to the KNU. The KNU helped [some of] them [land owners] to get the opportunity to work on their own land.
I heard from a villager from D--- village, Saw E---, a member of the Land Management Committee in D--- village, Meh Ka Law village tract, Bu Tho Township, Mu Traw [Hpapun] District, that LIB #434 returned the lands to about five or six land owners in F--- village, Mel village tract, Bu Tho Township. As the land owners have been given their land back they are free to work on it without hindrance.
Some of the farmers who have had their land confiscated, approached a member of Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) to ask about ways to get their land back. The KHRG member suggested some options. Acquiring the recommendation letter from the village tract land management leader to work on paddy fields which have been confiscated [by the Tatmadaw] is very difficult. This is because the village tract leader is very afraid to ask the Tatmadaw [soldiers for permission] in order to write the recommendation for the farmers whose land was confiscated. Some of the land owners whose lands were confiscated have to pay money [to the Burma/Myanmar government] to work on their land [because they do not have the signed permission form]. In order to apply for the Form 7 [which gives them permission to work on their land], they first need the recommendation letter from the village tract leader [who needs permission from the Tatmadaw]. The land owners also need a recommendation letter from the chairman of the Land Management Committee. [In Bu Tho Township], the village tract leader and the chairman of the Land Management Committee at the village tract level is the same person. Therefore, it is very difficult for a farmer to get this recommendation letter [as the village tract leader/chairman is too afraid]. The farmers who do not have the Form 7 do not get compensation for the land or compensation for their crops. There is a high possibility that the villagers’ land will be confiscated indefinitely.