Farmers in Hsihseng Township in the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone of Shan State say that the case of their seized farmland remains unresolved, as the military refuses to return it and they refuse to accept clear-cut mountain land that would negatively affect the local Shan community.
The Shan State Land Management Committee met with farmers in the Hsihseng Township Hall on September 7 to discuss the issue, but no agreement was reached.
“We have to abandon our farmland, and then they will give highland farms as compensation for our land. But they will not tell us where the compensated land is located,” Cho Cho Win, whose farmland was seized by army, told SHAN. “We want to get our farmland back. We won’t accept any compensated land. None of the farmers agree to this.”
The Burma Army’s Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs) 423 and 424 seized more than 1,900 acres of farmland in Hsihseng Township in 1996. Using Article 447 of the Penal Code, they prosecuted 22 farmers for trespassing when they tried to cultivate 300 acres of the land this year.
The farmers say that they were never informed that their land had been confiscated by the Burma Army.
To compensate for the loss of their land, the authorities offered to create more than 200 acres of highland farms in an area of Hsihseng Township where the ethnic Shan community lives to give to the ethnic Pa-O farmers. The farmers refused to accept it on the grounds that it would contribute to both deforestation and ethnic tension, and maintain the only solution is to return to them the land that belongs to them, which is currently not being used for any other purpose.
“We do not want to have a problem with the Shan community. There is no fallow and virgin land here. We don’t want to worry about it again,” Cho Cho Win said. “We want to get our original farmland back because there is no project [being developed] on our land.”