Thandwe: Burma’s union parliamentary commission for investigating confiscations of agrarian land and other land has recently investigated 1,000 acres of farms seized by the army in Gwa Township in southern Arakan State.
U Phae Than, a lawmaker of people’s parliament and a member of the commission, said the commission conducted field investigations in Gwa Township on 12th of December after the farmers from the area reported confiscations of their farms to the parliament.
“307.72 acres of farm and some coconut-plantations on Kantharyar beach in Gwa have been seized by the infantry battalion 55. The army still has not used those farms for construction or tree plantations. But it has been renting those farms for cultivation and the coconut-plantations on a contract basis. The farmers want their farms back from the army and they have reported this to our parliamentary commission. So, we have gone there to investigate the matter”, said U Phae Than.
He said the Infantry Battalion (55) based in Thandwe has confiscated those farms and plantations on Kantharyar beach in 1994 and 1995 under the expectation that the beach would become an exotic seaside resort.
“Kantharyar beach in Gwa is as beautiful as Ngapali beach in Thandwe. The army has confiscated those farms near the beach in order to construct hotels as it thought that the beach would become a seaside resort. Some buildings were constructed on some of those farms, but many farms are still being left unused. Those constructed buildings now lie in ruins as well. It will be very difficult for both foreign and domestic tourists to visit the beach because no facilities such as electricity, water and transportation are available there. So, the army has been renting those farms back to farmers for cultivation and the coconut plantation on contracts. All those confiscated farms and plantations are as long as five miles. The beach is still unexploited and very beautiful”, he said.
The local farmers from Kyeintali Village in Gwa Township are also said to have been suffering from losses as the battalion (55) has seized and abandoned over 700 acres of their farms as long as ten miles without doing anything since 1994.
“The farmers from Kyeintali have also complained to us that it has been nearly 20 years since the army confiscated and abandoned their farms without doing anything. So, we had to investigate those farms in Kyeintali as well”, said U Phae Than.
When asked his opinion on those unnecessary confiscations of farms by the army, U Phae Than said, “It is reasonable if the army will confiscate the farms close to their station and necessary for building their stations. But in most cases the army has confiscated the farms situated very far from its stations. It has not done anything beneficial to the people as well as to the nation with those confiscated farms. But the officers of the army have ordered to do so for their personal profits. For a long time they have been exploiting those confiscated farms by renting them back to the farmers. This should not be perpetuated. The farmers also want their farms back. If the farms are returned to them, it will be very beneficial to the nation.”
It is learnt that the army is still continuing to rent the confiscated farms to the farmers even though it has been now ordered by the higher authorities not to raise any welfare funds for their forces by renting the farms for cultivation.
U Phae Than said such perpetrations by the army have made a bad image for the nation.
The commission is also said to have investigated the responsible officers of the Infantry Battalion (55), the district administrator and the farmers concerning the four cases of farm confiscations in Thandwe Township.
It is the second time the parliamentary commission has conducted field investigations on farm confiscations in Arakan State. The commission is said to have investigated four cases in Thandwe, one case in Kyeintali, one case in Gwa and seven cases in Kyaukpru on this mission and is assigned to submit its findings, appraisals and suggestions concerning those cases to the union parliament.