- Commentary: Land Confiscation
- Situation of land confiscation in Nam-Zarng and Kun-Hing
- Land confiscated, villagers house destroyed, in Nam-Zarng
- Cultivated land confiscated in Nam-Zarng
- Farmlands and cemetery ground confiscated in Nam-Zarng
- Lands confiscated, forced labour used, to build new military bases and an airstrip, in Kun-Hing
- Confiscation of land with regard to mining projects
- Land Confiscation due to coal mining concession in Murng-Sart
- Land grabbing by businessmen in cooperation with military authorities and their cronies
- Lands forcibly taken, village forced to move, in Kaeng-Tung
- Lands forcibly taken and sold, in Kaeng-Tung
- Land forcibly taken and sold in Murng-Ton
- Designation of cultivated lands as military property and levy
- Land designated miltary areas, taxes levied, in Kun-Hing
For decades, confiscation of lands has been one of the frequent occurrences among the various human rights violations committed against the indigenous peoples of Shan State by the Burmese military.
Since their first arrival 4-5 decades ago, with the intention to occupy Shan State and subjugate its people, the Burmese military have been deploying more and more troops to more and more strategic places up to the present.
Initially, in order to set up permanent military bases, camps and posts, large areas of lands, which often included cultivated lands of the local people such as rice fields, farms, orchards, plantations and woodlands, etc., were forcibly taken by the Burmese military.
After some time, lands adjacent to or close to military bases have also been gradually confiscated for several reasons: to grow crops or use the lands in some other ways to generate incomes for the military; to collect taxes from those who use the lands to grow crops, etc.; or merely for security reasons.
Over the last decade or so, lands have been forcibly taken not only for the military but also for their cronies and business people who could afford to bribe influential authorities, as reported in this months issue.
SITUATION OF LAND CONFISCATION IN NAM-ZARNG AND KUN-HING
Since 2011 up to the present, many areas of land have been, and are still being, confiscated from the local people by the Burmese military authorities at many places in Nam-Zarng and Kun-Hing townships for setting up a new Regional Military Command and a new town.
During 2011, large areas of land including villagers farms and woodlands, and even residential areas of villages, have been forcibly taken by the military authorities for building new military battalions and the said new town to which people from several villages have been relocated.
In 2012 up to the present, the authorities have continued confiscating many areas of land, big and small, at different places, especially in the area of Kho Lam village tract in Nam-Zarng township where the new town is being built.
Lands have been confiscated for constructing military bases and buildings to house government departments, which were many, at several places. When roads needed to be expanded or straightened, lands which happened to be in the way were simply confiscated. Some land areas were confiscated just to resell them back to the people.
In order to make it easier for them to take local peoples land wherever and whenever they like, the military authorities required the village tract and village leaders to sign documents stating that they willingly agreed to the authorities taking of the respective land areas for the benefit of the country.
In this way the Burmese military has made itself unblamable by the unsatisfied confiscated-land owners. They could easily deny having forcibly taken those lands using the documents signed by the community leaders as evidence.
The following are some such incidents:
LAND CONFISCATED, VILLAGERS HOUSE DESTROYED, IN NAM-ZARNG
In mid 2011, a plot of land where there was a villagers house was confiscated and the house was destroyed by the Burmese military authorities, at Kho Lam village in Kho Lam village tract in Nam-Zarng township.
In June 2011, a villager of Kho Lam, Ya Zing (m), aged 45, was told by the authorities that the plot of land where he had a house and was living would be confiscated to build an office for a government department.
The land was located in No. 1 quarter of Kho Lam, right at the head of the village, and in it was a two-storey brick house where Ya Zing had been living for several years. Ya Zing was told to take his belonging and immediately move out of the house.
Soon after that, the authorities brought an excavator to the place and destroyed the house, as the owner barely had time to move all his belongings out of it. The authorities gave nothing as compensation for both the land and the house.
The house was built only about 5 years previously and it was worth more than ten million kyat at the time of its destruction, said its tearful owner to SHRF field workers at the Shan-Thai border, where he had come to find a better means of survival, in late 2011.
CULTIVATED LANDS CONFISCATED IN NAM-ZARNG
In late 2011, 2 plots of cultivated land, about 4 acres each, were confiscated from villagers of Kaad Lur village in Kaad Lur village tract in Nam-Zarng township by the Burmese military authorities without giving anything as compensation to the owners.
During late November and early December 2011, Lung Ta and his wife, Pa Non, and Lung Thun and his wife, Pa Khawng, were told by the authorities that they would have to give their lands to the State to make room for government offices.
They were 2 plots of land, adjacent to each other, where the said 2 couples used to grow seasonal crops and vegetables, and also wood and bamboo, to support their families for many years, and which were located near Kaad Lur village in the area of Kaad Lur village tract.
Although the authorities had said that the land was confiscated for building offices, it was left deserted until early 2012, when they let groups of Burman workers who had come from lower Burma stay on it.
On inquiry, it was learned that those Burman workers earned their living by cutting wood and making charcoal, sawing lumber and selling them. They were only staying temporarily on the land because the authorities would later divide it into small plots and sell them.
FARMLANDS AND CEMETERY GROUND CONFISCATED IN NAM-ZARNG
In early 2011, hundreds of acres of villagers farmlands in Kho Lam village tract in Nam-Zarng township were confiscated by the Burmese military authorities to make room for setting up residential quarters in the proposed new town.
In March 2011, not less than 200 acres of farmlands along the Nam-Zarng - Kho Lam main road, west of Kho Lam village, in the areas of Wan Phui and Nam Mawng villages, were confiscated by the Burmese military authorities of IB66.
The farmlands belonged to the villagers of Wan Phui and Nam Mawng who had been making a living growing seasonal crops such as peanut, sesame and maize, etc., on those farms for generations. However, the villagers received nothing as compensation for their lost lands and livelihoods.
This land area would be made into residential quarters and kept especially for Burman settlers who would be coming from lower Burma in the future, it was learned. For would-be relocated local people, however, another area of land adjacent to Kho Lam village was designated.
About 800-900 acres of land near Kho Lam village, where there were many plots of villagers rice farms, were confiscated and designated as a living area for local people from surrounding villages that would be relocated to the place in the future.
Some of the villages that would have to relocate included Kho Ood, Naa Law, Naa Sawnt, Taad Laai and Phaa Ngaab. The authorities also planned to move many other villages in other areas to the would-be town area in the future to increase the town population.
The cemetery ground of Kho Lam village, near which the Burmese troops of IB66 had set up their base, was also confiscated to build a new police station. It had already been leveled with a machine and the villagers were told to find a new place to bury their dead, at the time when this report was received in mid 2011.
LANDS CONFISCATED, FORCED LABOUR USED, TO BUILD NEW MILITARY BASES AND AN AIRSTRIP, IN KUN-HING
During 2011, starting from the early part of the year, hundreds of acres of land were confiscated without any compensation by the Burmese military to build 2 new military bases and a new airstrip in Kun-Hing township, and forced labour of local villagers was used to clear the lands.
One of the military bases was located about 3 miles east of Kali village, at a place where there was a road branching out from the main road towards Kaeng Lom village tract. A large area of land, covering about 100 acres and including villagers many farms and woodlands, was designated for the base.
The other military base was to be built near Wan Saak Saai Khaao village in Wan Paang village tract, located northeast of Kun-Hing town about 5 miles away from the main road and on the eastern side of Nam Paang river. Here also about 100 acres of land, including villagers farms and woodlands, were confiscated.
The airstrip was to be some distance south of Kali village in Kali village tract and would be about 2 miles long and many yards wide. All the villagers farms and lands which happened to be in the way of the airstrip would simply be confiscated.
Forced labour of the villagers in Kali and Wan Paang village tracts, and even in Kun-Hing town areas, was used to clear the lands that had been confiscated. Farms and gardens where there were some crops and plants, including sugarcane and banana, etc., were required to be cleared during the nights
CONFISCATION OF LAND WITH REGARD TO MINING PROJECTS
To make way for government projects, large areas of cultivated land belonging to local villagers have often been confiscated by the Burmese military authorities with virtually no compensation.
The following is one such incident:
LAND CONFISCATION DUE TO COAL MINING CONCESSION IN MURNG-SART
In 2011, many acres of villagers rice fields and woodlands in Murng-Sart township were confiscated by the Burmese military authorities after granting a concession to a Thai company to mine coal in the area.
In early 2011, villagers in Murng Kok and Murng Lung areas in Murng-Sart township were forced by the authorities to sell several acres of their rice fields that happened to be in the designated mining area to the said mining company from Thailand.
The Burmese authorities gave the villagers 20,000 kyat (Burmese money) for each acre of their lands, saying that it was the price decided by the higher authorities. However, the villagers later learned from the Thai company that they paid 20,000 baht (Thai money) for each acre to the Burmese authorities for mining concession.
Although at first it was supposed to be only the designated rice fields that had been sold to the Thai company, later in mid 2011, they started to also forcibly take many acres of villagers woodlands through which to construct a motor road for transporting coal.
When the villagers complained about it to the Thai company, they said they did it because the Burmese authorities said the woodlands were also included in the concession. They even suggested that the villagers should go and work in Thailand if they had no land left to work on.
When the villagers went to ask the Burmese military authorities, they said the Thai company was right and told them not to complain about it. Why complain about it? Youve already received their money, they said, All lands belong to the government. We can just take them without giving you anything if we like.
LAND GRABBING BY BUSINESSMEN IN COOPERATION WITH MILITARY AUTHORITIES AND THEIR CRONIES
Incidents of land grabbing by business people who had connections, one way or another, with military authorities have also been frequent occurrences in many parts of Shan State.
Lands, often the ones on which rural communities wholly or partly depended for their living for generations, were initially taken by the military and later handed over to certain business people after certain amounts of money had changed hands.
The lands were used mostly for plantation projects, such as rubber and fruit trees, etc., usually jointly owned by members of the Burmese military and business people who implemented the projects and shared the profits.
In some cases, the confiscated lands were divided into plots and resold back to the villagers, or whoever could afford to buy them. Sometimes, even the former owners of the lands were compelled to buy back some plots of land simply because they had no place to live.
The following are some such instances:
LANDS FORCIBLY TAKEN, VILLAGE FORCED TO MOVE, IN KAENG-TUNG
In mid 2011, several acres of woodlands in the area of Huay Saai village in Kaad Pha village tract, Kaeng-Tung township, were forcibly taken by a businessman, and the village was also forced to move, with the help of Burmese police and military authorities.
In early May 2011, an ethnic Chinese businessman, known locally as Lung Gin Haw, with the help of Burmese troops of LIB314, forcibly took all the woodlands belonging to the Akha villagers of Huay Saai village in Kaad Pha village tract in Kaeng-Tung township.
Huay Saai village was also forced to move by the troops and policemen acting on behalf of the businessman and his wife who claimed that the land area on which the village stood also belonged to them, as they had paid the concerned authorities for it.
But the villagers of Huay Saai did not comply with the order and lodged a complaint with the authorities at the township administration office in Kaeng-Town. On 15 May 2011, Lung Gin Haw and his wife were summoned to the township office and told to stop their land grabbing activities, and they agreed to comply with the order without any argument.
However, on 25 May 2011, the businessman and his wife, with some police officers, came to Huay Saai again and told the villagers that they had decided not to stop trying to take the land area covering the village and the woodlands surrounding it.
You will have to relocate your village and give us all the lands because we have already bought them from the Burmese military, they told the villagers, This is the order of the military. So, move away as soon as possible if you do not want to die.
The villagers of Huay Saai told SHRF field workers that even though the authorities at the Township Administration Office had issued an order banning them from taking the land, the business couple dared to defy it because the military was behind them.
It was later learned that the villagers had not yet given up their efforts and they had also filed a complaint with the USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party), which was a military-backed party, after the village tract and township administration offices apparently could not help them.
However, when this report was received in June 2011, the villagers had not yet received any assistance form the USDP authorities. Although they complained to the USDP as a last resort, because they had no other choice left, they did not feel very much optimistic, said the villagers.
LANDS FORCIBLY TAKEN AND SOLD, IN KAENG-TUNG
In mid 2011, tens of acres of woodlands belonging to villagers of Wan Pok Tai village in Kaad Pha village tract in Kaeng-Tung township were forcibly taken and sold to an ethnic Chinese businessman by a military crony.
In late June 2011, a secretary of Kaad Pha village tract, together with several police officers, came to Wan Pok Tai village in Kaad Pha village tract, and forcibly marked off 10 of acres of villagers woodlands in the village area.
The village tract secretary was a former Burmese soldier named Thiha Thura who had been assigned to the post by the township administration office in Kaeng-Tung town. The villagers dared not say anything to him when he was marking off the land because they were afraid of the police, and the man himself was also quite influential in the area.
Not long after that, the marked-off land was measured and sold to an ethnic Chinese businessman by the village tract secretary, who took all the money for himself and gave nothing to the original owners of the lands.
The villagers then went to file a complaint with the authorities at the township administration office. When Thiha Thura heard about it, he told the villagers to go and withdraw their complaint, or else he would do certain things that would cause all of them to be put in prison.
The businessman who bought the land was none other than the notorious land grabber in Kaeng-Tung township, Lung Gin Haw. Over the last decade or so, this man and his wife had bribed and persuaded members of the Burmese military and their cronies to seize lands and resell them to them cheaply.
They had done this so many times, usually some tens of acres of land at a time, that they now possessed about 700-800 acres of land, which they had turned into rubber plantations, in the area of Kaad Pha village tract alone.
LANDS FORCIBLY TAKEN AND SOLD IN MURNG-TON
Since late 2011 up to early 2012, many land areas along the main road between Murng-Ton town and Naa Kawng Mu village, in Murng-Ton township, have been forcibly taken and resold by a Chinese man, connected to the UWSA, with the help of the Burmese military authorities.
In November 2011, the said Chinese man, who had connections with UWSA (United Wa State Army), an armed resistance group that had a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military, acquired permission to grab lands in Murng-Ton township from the most senior Burmese military commander in the township, apparently by bribing him.
Since then up to at least February 2012 when this report was received, the Chinese man had forcibly taken many land areas, which were mostly farms, fields and woodlands of the local people, on both sides of the main road between Murng-Ton town and Naa Kawng Mu village.
The lands were measured and divided into plots of more or less equal sizes, and announcements were put out that they were for sale. The local people, including former owners of those lands, were told to buy those plots of land if they wanted them back.
DESIGNATION OF CULTIVATED LANDS AS MILITARY PROPERTY AND LEVYING OF TAXES
In many places in Shan State, large areas of lands adjacent to military bases have been designated as military property and farmers who traditionally grew crops on those lands have been forced to pay heavy taxes to the military for using them.
Many such land areas have been traditionally cultivated by local farmers for generations, growing various crops such as rice, peanut, soy bean, sesame and pineapple, etc..
The following are some such incidents:
LANDS DESIGNATED MILITARY AREAS, TAXES LEVIED, IN KUN-HING
It has been some years now since the Burmese army troops of IB246 and LIB524 started to claim lands around their bases, stretching out to 5-6 miles at some places, to be military property and levied taxes on farmers who used them to grow crops.
More than 5 miles of land on both sides of the main road between the base of IB246 at Nam Oi village and Laai Kaam village to the west, have been designated military property and farmers were required to pay taxes for using them.
About 6 miles of land from the base of LIB524 to the north, on the western side of the Nam Paang river, have also been designated as their base area by the Burmese troops and farmers who grew crops on them were also required to pay taxes to the military.
Many farmers had already been using the lands to grow crops every year since the time when there were virtually no Burmese troops in the area. But now they were required to pay taxes to the Burmese military who claimed to own all the lands.
Moreover, the taxes had increased many times in 2011, compared to those in the previous years. In 2010, farmers who grew rice, corn, sesame and peanut, etc., had to pay 1,000 kyat for using each acre of the lands. But in 2011, they were forced to pay 3,000 kyat per acre.
Pineapple farmers also had to pay taxes based not on the acreage of the land but on the number of the pineapple fruits. Pineapples were divided into 2 types based on their sizes, big and small. Taxes were collected at the rate of 300 kyat for each big pineapple and 150 kyat for each small one, after they had been harvested.