Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Three Families Desert Home After Losing Farms

Ponna Kyunt (Narinjara): Three families left their villages in Ponna Kyunt Township north of Sittwe for southern Arakan State after they lost their freehold lands to confiscation by local authorities aided by the Burmese army, said a village elder.

He said, "The families left our village, Ah Mae Kin, for a village in Gwa Township before the rainy season after they lost their lands when the authority confiscated their farms."

At least 15 acres of farmland belonging to the three families of U Maung Aye Kyaw, U Kong Zauk, and Maung Pu Nyo were confiscated by Village Chairman U Aung Mra U with the help of local army officials.

After the confiscation, the three families found themselves without a job or livelihood and eventually left for another village in Gwa Township where land prices are cheaper than in Ponna Kyunt.

"They left for a village in Gwa Township but I do not know the village name. I heard land prices in the area are much cheaper and work is available there. So they left their freehold lands," the elder added.

20 acres of land in the village were first confiscated by army officials from Light Infantry Battalions 550 and 344 with the help of Village Chairman Aung Mra U for army purposes. Later, the village chairman confiscated another 43 acres of land with the local high authorities to sell to rich families in the village.

Among the confiscated lands were some that belonged to the entire village for use as a grazing pasture, and most of the lands had been owned by villagers for many decades.

"We heard that that the Burmese army needed 20 acres of land from our village to construct army buildings, but the army officials confiscated 63 acres of land from our village without paying any compensation," said the villager.

Later the officers and village chairman sold the extra land to wealthy local villagers for 50,000 kyats per acre, the elder said.

The army officers sold 43 acres to U Kyaw Hla Sein, U Sein Tha, Maung Kyaw Bu, Alon Khin, Maung Tun Aye, and Own Kyaw, all of whom are from Ah Mae Kin Village.

After the land was sold by the officers to the wealthy residents, the village found itself divided into two factions - the rich and the poor. The three families subsequently left the village to look for a better place to find work.

According to the source, seven families from the village are likely to leave at the end of this rainy season due to the many obstacles facing them in their livelihoods since the village chairman and army officials confiscated local lands.

Many villages in Arakan State are facing similar problems as Ah Mae Kin, since the Burmese army has been confiscating land belonging to the common people and selling it to the wealthy.

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