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Jan 16, 2009 (DVB), Local farmers from Tawwi in Bago division’s Nyaunlaypin township have complained that a monk named Dhamma Pala has seized their land to build a pagoda.
A lawyer representing the farmers said the monk had claimed the Bago divisional army commander had ordered him to build the pagoda.
"The monk set up a fence one acre into some land owned by a farmer called U Tin Myaing," the lawyer said.
"When the farmer refused to give up his land, the monk said he could take all the land if he wanted as he had to build a pagoda there for the Bago divisional army commander," he said.
"In the end, Tin Myint had to give up the land as he was scared after hearing the name of the military authorities."
Dhamma Pala arrived in Tawwi about a year ago and has been living in the ruins of an old pagoda located on the farmland.
The farmers' lawyer said the seizure of farmland was against regulations set out by the Burmese Head Monks' Association.
"According to chapter 10, article 200 of the Burmese Head Monks' Association code, the land on which a pagoda is to be built, must not be taxed and must be marked as Sasana property. But the land he is seizing now is farmland," the lawyer said.
"Also, land which is marked out for government projects such as agriculture cannot be used to build pagodas. U Tin Myint’s land is reserved for growing crops for the government’s agricultural plans," he said.
"Also the monk needs to get permission first from local government administrations and the Head Monks' Association to build the pagoda but now he’s doing all these things without permission from anyone, just claiming that he is acting on the orders of senior government authorities."
A local resident said Dhamma Pala had lost the respect of the local community because of his previous activities.
"If we respected the monk, then we would give away all the land we have for his project," he said.
"But this particular one we are talking about has no respect from the locals. He is a monk who predicts illegal two-digit and three-digit lottery numbers."
Dhamma Pala has previously faced criticism from local monks, who said he set up a booth on the Rangoon-Mandalay highway and collected donations from passing vehicles.
When the village Head Monks' Association reported the matter to the township Peace and Development Council, his booth was shut down, but Dhamma Pala reportedly bribed a member of the township Head Monks' Association who had the village members sacked.
Local monks had also previously complained about Dhamma Pala’s pagoda project to the divisional Head Monks' Association, which issued an order to stop the project.
But this order was then revoked by the national Head Monks' Association after he managed to bribe a member of the association and construction was allowed to continue.
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw