07/13/2017, 15.32

Government to return 120 hectares of confiscated land to farmers

The farmland was needed to build a hospital. Vice President Van Thio pledged a quick and transparent return. Almost 500 people in one area have been sued in land-related disputes. Land ownership is one of the most controversial issues in Myanmar. In 2015, farmers’ wrath was a key factor for Aung San Suu Kyi's party victory.

Mandalay (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio announced the return of 120 hectares of farmland to its legitimate owners in Madaya, near Mandalay (central Myanmar), the government-owned Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Van Thio yesterday pledged quick and correct solutions in returning the confiscated land to farmers. In the past week hundreds of them gathered in Madaya to protest the confiscation, calling on the government to return the land and protect them from law suits over ownership.

Land ownership is one of the most controversial issues in Myanmar today where the military has been accused of many illegal seizures. Anger over land-grabs was a key factor that helped Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party win the elections in 2015.

However, little has been done to address farmers' grievances since she took office last year, whilst almost 500 villagers in the central Mandalay region alone are being prosecuted in cases related to land-grabbing.

For a week now hundreds of farmers have gathered to protest the lawsuits. At the foot of Mandalay hill, some 300 farmers chanted and waved signs next to a ramshackle makeshift camp where they have been living for the past seven days.

"We chose the new government but they don't do anything to defend the farmers," protest leader Mg Soe said. "We know it's hard for the government to solve all the land problems which festered for years when the junta was in power. But now, even more farmers are facing lawsuits under the new government."

In Madaya, the land was taken from local farmers for the construction of a hospital for people with leprosy. In all, the Ministry of Health and Sports confiscated nearly 800 hectares of land, but is now willing to give up some 500 hectares because it needs only some 240 hectares for the facility.

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