More than 150 farmers from a village in Nay Pyi Taw have sent a petition to the president and parliament after a government department told them to leave their homes within three days or face jail time.
The residents of Doe Nwe Ywar Thit in Dekkinathiri township sent the petition to President U Thein Sein, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and the parliament commission investigating land disputes on January 2, the day the Department of Forestry said they had to leave by.
Residents said they have lived in the village for up to 50 years but were told to leave because it is officially classified as forest land. Doe Nwe Ywar Thit has a school, monastery, 215 households and more than 1000 acres of land, including about 500 acres of farmland.
“Nay Pyi Taw township administrator U Win Myint and chief forester U Soe Win from the Department of Forestry came here on December 30 and 31and they gave a notice with a letter from Nay Pyi Taw Council to leave the village within three days because the land is Yan Aung Myin forest reserve,” said U Kyaw Swe Lat, who helped organise the petition.
“Doe Nwe … has 500 acres of farmlands and more than 500 acres of other land. The school is more than 30 years old and has 97 students. There is also a monastery,” said U Kyaw Swe Lat, who is the head of the Facilitators Network with ILO for Nay Pyi Taw.
“The villagers objected to the action of the department. which was not transparent or consultative at all.
“Instead of protesting on the street they discussed [the eviction notice with] each other in their compounds and signed the petition.”
As of January 4, the villagers had not left and were yet to receive a response to their petition.
They said the disputed land was changed into a sugarcane plantation from a forest reserve by an official from Central Command in 1995-96. However, the sugarcane plantation was destroyed when the government began constructing the capital.
Daw Kyin Htwe, who owns 10 acres of land in Doe Nwe Ywar Thit, said homes in the village were 50 years old.
“I have been living here for 40 years. Now the officials ordered us to leave here within three days without any other notification or negotiation. They even threatened we would be punished with six months imprisonment … if we would not leave,” she said. “Where will we live or how will we survive if we leave? We will have no lands to live and work on. But we can consider leaving if we will be given compensation equal to our current lands and homes.”
U Aung Kyin. who owns 12 acres of farmland, agreed that at the minimum suitable compensation should be offered.
“We will consider moving if we are provided a replacement place to live and also farmland that is equal to what we lose,” he said.
“I have been in this village for more than 30 years and I inherited my farmland from my parents. The village has a school and I have been a member of the school committee. Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation U Myint Hlaing even sponsored the construction of the school’s entrance before the election.”
The villagers questioned why ministries and departments were defying Thura U Shwe Mann’s instruction that they should assess the differences between land ownership maps and the situation on the ground before making any decisions about land use.
– Translated by Zar Zar Soe