MYANMAR: Destitute farmers seek compensation from rubber company

About 300 acres of land was taken from farmers of Thauk Yay village, about 35 kilometres from Pathein on the Pathein-Maw Tin Soon Road, by the Department of Forestry, which then leased it for 30 years to Myanmar Aung Company.

Farmers received K25,000 an acre from the company for some of the confiscated land - about one-eighth of the then-market price.

U Zaw Lin Aung, manager of Myanmar Aung, said the issue of compensation should be discussed with the Department of Forestry.

"We made a contract with that department under the Ministry of Forestry legally and we are growing rubber under a contract,” U Zaw Lin Aung said.

He said that the company gave some money to the farmers out of sympathy in 2006 but was not legally required to pay them anything.

"No one told us to give compensation to them. But we discussed with the township administration and we gave them K25,000 an acre out of sympathy,” he said.

U Zaw Lin Aung said that the company signed a 30-year contract with the Ministry of Forestry in 2006. The company got permission to grow rubber on 2400 acres of land but he said to date it only used about one-third of the total concession.

"They could ask for more compensation from government by showing proof that these lands were really theirs for many years, as they say,” U Zaw Lin Aung said.

Like many farmers in Myanmar, the residents of Thauk Yay have no proof of ownership,
although they worked the land for more than 20 years. They said they were unaware that under Myanmar law all land is owned by the state.

Source: Daily "The Myanmar Times", Yangon, 21 Jan 2013

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)