An armed group aligned with the Burma Army has seized hundreds of acres of land from farmers in northeastern Shan State.
The Mangpan People’s Militia Force (PMF) took paddy fields from farmers in Nam Pao village-tract, located in Lashio township, to plant rubber and mango trees for its own profit.
The PMF grabbed about 1,200 acres of land in 2006. Last December, it seized about 370 acres.
“They brought in Chinese farmers and planted pea and corn on our land,” said a forty-year-old farmer, whose farm was recently taken by the PMF.
While complaints about land seized in 2016 are still waiting to be heard the same PMF is grabbing more land, the farmer said. He vowed to keep fighting until his farm is returned.
Another farmer said the recent land grabs came as a surprise. “They (PMF) didn’t tell us they would seize our land plots,” said Nang Hla. “They just told us to harvest our corn. The next day they used large tractors to plow our lands.”
Nam Pao village-tract is located about 27-miles south of Lashio.
“We have to pay taxes to Mangpan PMF every year. We want them to help us but they don’t. They just seize our paddy fields again! Now we’re struggling to survive and still need to pay their taxes,” another farmer told SHAN.
Farmers said they tried to negotiate with leaders of the PMF but they wouldn’t listen.
“We don’t know why they seized our land plots. We don’t understand their plan. When they took our land, they’ve never explained why,” said a farmer.
The Mangpan PMF, led by Aik Moon (aka Bo Moon), was originally an ethnic armed group before transforming into a militia group.
Bo Mon is reportedly one of the most powerful people in northeastern Shan State, according to a Global Witness report. He’s rumoured to be the second largest rubber grower in northeastern Shan State.
The Mangpan PMF, active in Tangyan, Mongreh and Lashio townships, has its own rubber company called Shan Yoma Aye Chan Yey.
Sai Wan Leng Kham, MP for Shan State № 3 constituency, said while the Burma Army claims to be returning land it seized back to the rightful owners the Mangpan PMF is taking more land.
The MP sold SHAN he is reporting the latest incident to the Land Assessment Committee and will also try to help the farmers get their land back.
“It shouldn’t have happened; they shouldn’t seize people’s land using their weapons. It creates a bad image for our country. This PMF is operating under the Burma Army and it creates a negative image for the Burma Army too,” Sai Wan Leng Kham said.
They need to be informed before their land is seized and they need to be compensated, the MP said.
The Burma Army confiscated 400,000 acres in Shan state. The state government told media outlets 200,000 acres of this has been designated for regional development projects.