Kyauk Pru: The regional headquarters of the Burmese navy known as the Danyawady Naval Base, stationed in Kyaukpru in western Burma’s Arakan State has threatened the local farmers with the revocation of the leases of lands rented to them after asking for more paddies as the rental charges.
“They [the naval headquarter] have been asking for more paddies from us for the rent of their lands for the last harvest threatening that they will stop hiring out their land to those who fail to pay the rent being charged by them in the coming season. Now we are facing a great difficulty for our livelihoods”, said one of the farmers from Sitetaw Village in Kyaukpru Township.
The Danyawady Naval Base is situated near the Sitetaw Village and is said to have forcibly confiscated many acres of farmlands traditionally owned by the farmers in the village on the pretext that it needed the land in order to build its stations in 1992.
“They built their extended stations on a few acres of farmlands that were forcibly confiscated from us and have been hiring back the extra 173 acres of land to 43 farmers from our village. They previously charged 10 baskets of paddy per acre of land as rent, but they have suddenly increased the rental charge to 26 baskets per acre this year. If we pay what is being charged by them, nothing would be left for us. If we do not pay, we will not be allowed to cultivate on the lands in the coming season, thus we are now in a tight corner”, said the farmer.
He said that the naval headquarters has threatened to revoke the rented lands from the farmers in the coming season after the farmers stood firm against them for months without paying its suddenly increased rent after the recent harvest.
The Danyawady Naval Base was unreachable when contacted by Narinjara over telephone, but a retired sergeant from the base, who is living in Kyaukpru said, “Nothing is officially known as to why the naval force has increased the rent for the land from the farmers, but it is learnt that the higher authorities have ordered them to collect more paddies this year from the area.”
U Thandar Maung Maung, a spokesperson of the office of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party in Kyaukpru, also confirmed that the farmers have complained of the situation to his office as well.
“The farmers have also complained to our party’s office here, addressing their complaint to our lawmaker of the peoples’ parliament U Ba Shin. We have also learnt they are now preparing to send their complaint letters to the higher authorities who include the president, the minster of the defense ministry, the chief-of-staff, the regional chief minister and the township administrator regarding the increased rental charges imposed by the naval base”, said U Thandar Maung Maung.
He also said that the naval headquarters has confiscated many acres of farmlands in other villages across the area on the pretext of building its posts as well.
“The naval forces here have confiscated many acres of paddy fields not only in the Sitetaw Village, but also in other villages of Saikhrun, Goonshein, Ohntaw and Zayterun in the area on the pretext of constructing their stations on the lands. But they have been leasing most of the land back to the farmers, charging paddies for rent without constructing any stations on them”, he said.
According to the farmers, it is only in Arakan State in Burma, where the Burmese armed forces have been perpetuating the forcible land confiscations from the farmers and leasing of the land back to the farmers for their own profits, echoing similar practices of Indian Chettairs who were known in the post-colonial history of Burma for their inhumane exploitation of Burmese farmers.
They said they would have expected the present U Thein Sein led civilian regime to have stopped its armed forces carrying out such violations.