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Local farmers and the Kaung Htet Company in 400-acre land dispute

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Fifteen local landowners are locked in a land dispute with the Kaung Htet Company after the latter seized about 400 acres of land for a rubber plantation without paying any compensation, according to the farmers.
The land is located in the Heinda village tract in Mitta Township in Dawei district in Tanitharyi. Farmers involved in the confrontation are from Phoot Lat Toe, Kyet Paung Chaung and Butayone villages, where they grow betel nut, cashew nut and rubber.
A lawyer for the farmers, Robert San Aung, told Mizzima the company forcibly took over the land in collusion with local authorities by claiming that it had the legal right to seize the land and evict the farmers. In the process, the company destroyed their crops and trees on the land, he said.

The Kaung Htet Company reportedly sent a letter to the local administrative body in January to seek help in evicting the farmers, who company officials said trespassed on the land. In the letter, the company asked for their rubber and betel nut plants to be removed, and for the construction of a fire prevention road in the fields. The township administrator issued an order on July 13 ordering the farmers not to grow crops on the land until the dispute was settled. After that, the landowners stopped growing their own crops.

Two women, Hla Kyi and Hla Yee, took up the farmers’ cause and filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO), asking it for help in the dispute.

In the complaint letter, the landowners said that they were ordered to pay land revenue to the company and to take care of the land if they wished to continue growing their own crops on the land. The farmers, mostly Karen, said they were provided access to the land by the local authorities and the local army commander because the land was fallow at the time, and they had been allowed to use the land since 1998, while also paying taxes to the government. The current market price for rubber plantation and betel nut land in the Dawei area is about 300,000 kyat (US$ 398) per acre.

The company has denied all allegations leveled against it by the farmers and said that it bought the land at the rate of about 100,000 kyat per acre.

The owner of the Kaung Htet Company, Than Sein, said, “In fact they are trespassing on our land. They didn’t even apply for land-use rights. The land record department didn’t give the land to them. We made many concessions and accommodations to the farmers in negotiations. We are not doing anything forcibly. We are negotiating with them.”

Fallow land in Tanintharyi Region was been given to private businessmen for rubber plantations, said local sources. Now many companies including Yuzana, Kaung Htet and San Thit are working on the land. A similar land dispute has taken place between businessman and member of Parliament Khin Shwe and farmers in Shwe Nathar village in Mingaladon Township in Rangoon Region.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 August 2011 21:21 )  

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