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Some 800 farmers in Mandalay Division began ploughing more than 3,000 acres of farmland last week as a protest for its return since it was allegedly confiscated by the then ruling military government about 40 years ago.
Villagers in Sintgu Township’s Nyaungwan village said that more than 3,000 acres of their land was confiscated in the 1970s by the Burmese army under the control of former dictator Gen. Ne Win. After President Thein Sein’s government came into power in 2011, the villagers reignited their campaign by sending letters to the authorities to try to negotiate the return of the farmland. They say their letters have been repeatedly ignored.
On 6 June, the villagers began a “plough protest” – they started ploughing and cultivating the fallow farmland as a sign to the authorities that they are the original and rightful owners.
Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, Nyaungwan resident Sein Htay said, “We began ploughing the land with 80 pairs of cattle. We’ve been at it for six days now.
“We also erected ‘No Trespassing’ signs in the area to indicate that we own this land.”
He said that the villagers were demanding the returned of all 3,062.43 acres of confiscated farmland.
In neighbouring Sagaing Divison’s Kantbalu, a similar situation is playing out as villagers in that area launched a “plough protest” campaign too, calling for the return of their land.
This type of demonstration is happening with increasing frequency throughout Burma since President Thein Sein’s government came into power, highlighting the prevalent practice of land grabs during the decades of military rule.