September 18, 2018
Although the Ministry of Defence has released 120 acres of land that belongs to the residents of Pyaung Seik, Pyaing Chaung, and Oke Taung Pyin villages under Kyauktaw Township, Rakhine State, it still has not been returned to the original owners and the Tatmadaw’s 539th Light Infantry Battalion (LIB-539) has been running a rock quarry on the land, local farmers said.
Among 30 acres of grazing land and 90 acres of garden land near Oke Taung Pyin Village, the Ministry of Defence released 30 acres of grazing land on May 30, 2016 and 90 acres of garden land on June 27, 2016.
“We heard that these lands have been released by the Ministry of Defence since 2016. But, they haven’t been returned to us. Now, the LIB-539 is running a rock quarry on this land. Everything has been damaged after the fruit trees on the garden land such as mango trees and djenkol trees have been uprooted with bulldozers to run the rock quarry,” U Tun Hla from Pyaung Seik Village said to Narinjara News.
The 120 acres of released land is not located next to the military training ground and it is far from the central ground, he said.
“The LIB-539 is located in the west of Kan Sauk Mountain, which is 440 feet high, and the lands owned by the farmers are located at the eastern foothill of Kan Sauk Mountain. These lands are owned by the residents of Pyaung Seik, Pyaing Chaung, and Oke Taung Pyin villages,” he explained.
The rock quarry is being run in joint venture with private companies and no mineral tax has been officially submitted to the government, he claimed.
According to him, the local residents will submit a plea to the President on this issue.
“They (the LIB-539) have been running the rock quarry for two years now. It has gotten worse this year. Now, they are running it for nearly 24 hours [a day]. The environment has become damaged. The villagers can’t herd their cattle near the area since they are running the rock quarry. They have planted on the grazing land. The local residents want their land back so they submitted a letter to the hluttaw. When they learned about it, they got worse. More rocks are being extracted now,” U Tun Hla continued.
When Narinjara News contacted Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Tun Hla from Kyauktaw Township to ask about this issue, he replied that 90 acres of land and 132.70 acres of other farmland have been released by the Ministry of Defence and the land has been designated as state land, which is under the management of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“When I first submitted a letter to the Ministry of Defence to inquire about this issue, I was informed that 120 acres of land have already been released and it has been designated as a state land under the management of the Ministry of Home Affairs. There is still lack of clarity on this issue so I will raise a question during the 10th session of the Pyithu Hluttaw,” U Tin Win said to Narinjara News.
Local farmers will submit a plea to the President and report the issue to the Amyotha Hluttaw’s Mineral, Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Committee. They also plan to stage a protest if necessary.
The LID-539 seized the land in 1999.
Narinjara News has faced difficulties in contacting LID-539 to ask for their opinion.