Land dispute emerges between the Army and local farmers

(Kyauk Taw, 26 June 2013) : Incidences of confrontation between the Burma Army and the Arakanese farmers have been reported from various parts of Arakan. In many occasions the primary reason of confrontations has emerged as the arable land issue.

The photo was taken in November, 2012. An army vehicle from LIB 539 transported paddy to its base after soldiers harvested the paddy which was actually cultivated by the farmers.

The photo was taken in November, 2012. An army vehicle from LIB 539 transported paddy to its base after soldiers harvested the paddy which was actually cultivated by the farmers. (photo: RSV)

In a recent conflict, the tension started as the farmers began to plough their lands, which were confiscated by the Burmese army.

The incident took place in Prink Chaung and Oktaung Byint villages under Kyauk Taw township, when Maung Hlaing Win with some other local cultivators gathered on their confiscated lands for farming activities.

Over 25 farmers from both the villages came out farming activities on June 23 that invited wraths from the security personnel.

“Army officer Thaung Hla led a group of security personnel to arrive in the farmland and asked us not to plough anymore. They also warned of police actions against us,” said  Maung Hlaing Win.

The security personnel were from Light Infantry Battalion 539 based in Kan Souk village in Kyauk Taw township. The battalion confiscated 120.70 acres of farmlands owned by several farmers belonged to Prink Chaung and Oktaung Byint villages in 2010.

“We explained to the security personnel that those are our lands and we have been using these arable lands since time immemorial. We also argued that they should allow us to use those lands for the survival of our families, as we do not have other regular income sources,” Maung Hlaing Win added.

The Infantry Battalion 539 confiscated the farmlands citing the reason for constructing Army houses, but interestingly they had never used the lands for construction purposes, rather the Army rented the lands to other farmers for some benefits like 20 baskets of paddy per acre in an agricultural season.

The deprived farmers of Prink Chaung and Oktaung Byint villages claim that they have legal papers showing their ownership over the lands. Moreover they used to pay taxes to the revenue department under the previous governments.

In November last year too, there broke out incidents of confrontation between the security personnel and local farmers after the Army tried to harvest the paddy, which was actually cultivated by the farmers.