Land disputes between farmers and the Burma Army in northern Shan State has been going on for decades. Villagers in Kyaukme Gyi have been trying to get back thousands of acres they say the Army (aka Tatmadaw) stole from them in 2000.
Farmers started cultivating these fields again in 2017. The Tatmadaw responded by opening criminal cases against them.
“The Army has charged us for various offences (over the years),” Eh Naw, a farmer told SHAN. “A police officer told us the Army recently opened a new case against 13 farmers.”
“We’re being charged for plowing our fields…we can’t continue working our farms because we need to attend court hearings.”
Kham, also a farmer from Kyaukme Gyi, said after their land was seized they no longer have a regular income and struggle to survive and send their children to school.
Three members of her family have been charged for cultivating their confiscated farms.
Attending the court hearings is robbing them of the little money they have.
“We want the Army to return our farmland,” she said. “It’s a problem that never ends. Even our MPs can’t solve it. Yet, we want them to find a solution.”
Hiring lawyers and traveling to court is a burden for the farmers.
“We are trying to solve these problems by ourselves. We can’t depend on anybody. No one is standing with us,” Eh Naw told SHAN.
Tatmadaw’s LIB-501 began moving troops into the area in 1992. Soldiers started seizing farmlands in 2000 and by 2014 the Army claimed ownership of the confiscated land.
Thein Oo, director of the office for Shan State government, told the press in 2018 the Tatmadaw has confiscated 400,000 acres of farmland in Shan State. The state government is using half of this land for regional development projects.