Ex-Commander Maung Oo Dismissed from Arakan Land Commission

Sittwe: The former Home Minister as well as the commander of the western command, U Maung Oo, was dismissed from the position of in-charge of the Arakan Land Commission (which investigates confiscated arable lands in Arakan state) and replaced with another military representative reportedly after Arakanese parliamentarians protested against his appointment.

The lands owned by Arakanese farmers were confiscated by Burma Navy for a orchard. ( Photo by Narinjara)

“U Maung Oo was appointed as the in-charge of the commission by the Parliament. We had a debate in the Parliament over his appointment to the commission because he himself had some entanglements with land problems in Arakan State when he was serving as the Commander in the region. Then he was replaced with another military representative Brigadier General Wai Lwin”, said U Ba Shin, an Arakanese legislator of the People’s Parliament from Kyaukpru Township.

He said that the commission was jointly formed to oversee investigations in Arakan State and Chin State as a part of the Parliamentary Committee who’s job is to probe the alleged forcible land confiscations in 14 states and divisions in Burma.

The military representative Brigadier General Wai Lwin is the in-charge of the commission. Dr. Aye Maung, the legislator of the Union’s Parliament from Sittwe Township, U Ba Shin, a legislator of the People’s Parliament from Kyaukpru Township, U Phe Than, a legislator of the People’s Parliament from Mraybone Towship, U Shwe Maung, the legislator of the People’s Parliament from Buthidaung Township have also been appointed as members in the commission.

“Our commission has already sat for their first meeting and will be able to start working on our mission from the second week of September because our current parliamentary session ends in the first week. We will have to hold further discussions amongst ourselves, and will review complaint letters about the land confiscations. Then we will continue working towards our mission jointly with the regional governments”, added U Ba Shin.

It is learnt that the Burmese Army is the main organization that has forcibly confiscated much of the farmlands and orchards in Arakan State and in some cases high ranking military officers who served in the region misused the army explicitly for this purpose of confiscating the lands for personal profit.

U Thandar Maung Maung, a resident of Kyaukpru, said U Maung Oo is one of those such military officers.

“U Maung Oo forcibly took farmlands owned by villagers from Goonshein Village in Kyaukpru Towship and sold them to the Daewoo Company for a price of 45 million kyat after registering them under his wife’s name. He has done this in three or four places in our township alone. So, it is good to have dismissed such a person from the commission of investigation”, said U Thandar Maung Maung.

Many other residents of Kyaukpru said that there are still many farmlands forcibly grabbed by former military officers and kept under the registered ownership of their spouses or relatives in Minpyin and other villages in the township.

“There are still so many properties in Minyin and other places in our township, which were forcibly confiscated by the former commanders of our Arakan State, General Maung Oo and General Win Myint, second commander Thiha Thura Maung Ni and Major San Maung Maung. These lands are still being kept under the names of their wives and relatives, but not under their own names”, said a villager of Minpyin Village.

Tens of thousands of acres have been confiscated by the army in Minbya Township. The villagers of Palaepauk, also known as Balipauk Village, are currently facing a lawsuit filed by the army for cultivating the confiscated farmlands this season.

The villagers said 441 acres of paddy farms which they had traditionally cultivated and relied up to earn their livelihoods were forcibly grabbed by the Military Operation Command (9) based in nearby Kyauktaw in 2004 and they were sued by the command as they started to cultivate their lands this season.

According to the local farmers, many acres of paddy farms in the townships of Sittwe, Ponnakyaun, Mrauk-U, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Taunggup and Ann have been forcibly grabbed by the Burmese Army during the reign of the bygone military regime.