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Min Bya: Farmers in western Burma's Arakan State are expecting the current U Thein Sein-led regime will stop its army from practices in the similar manner of Indian Chettairs, who are known in the post-colonial history of Burma for their inhumane exploitations on Burmese farmers.

The farmers said the Burmese armies based in their region have forcibly confiscated their traditionally owned arable lands and have been exploiting them by renting the land back to them for cultivations.

A--rakhine-farmer-winnows-rice-to-remove-the-chaff-on-banks-of-lay-myo-river-myanmar A Rakhine ( Arakanese) farmer winnows rice to remove the chaff on the banks of Lay Myo River, Arakan state ( Photo by
A farmer from Balipauk Village Group in Minbya Township in Northern Arakan State said they have written an appeal letter to President U Thein Sein to eliminate the rents charged by the armies for cultivations on their own lands.

“The Brigade of Military Operation Command 9 based in Kyauktaw has confiscated 432 acres of farmland from us and has been renting it out to us again for cultivating the lands at a rent of 30 baskets per acre. We have to pay over 12,000 baskets of paddy every year to the army according to its order. We would like to get exemption from those rents by the army and so, we have written an appeal letter to the President U Thein Sein”, said the farmer.

The farmer said they have sent the letter to the president on time before the army comes to collect the paddy from them for rent for the year.

“Every year in December or January, the army comes to collect the paddy from us. For this year, the army has already informed us by letter to prepare the paddy for them as well. But we do not like to continue to give any of our harvest to the army because we have been suffering from great difficulties for our living since the army has confiscated our lands and levied us with heavy rents from our cultivations. So, this year we have requested the President U Thein Sein by an appeal letter on time before the army is coming to take our harvests”, he said.

In Balipauk Village Group, most of the villagers who are living on the traditional cultivations are not able to give primary-level educations to their children.

Another farmer from the village said the army may arrest the farmers if they do not give the rent to the army.

“The army used to threatens us with arrest and imprisonment, if we would not pay the paddy to the army. The army personnel told us that the paddy is being collected for the nation and anyone who refuses to give the paddy will be sued on charges of treason. In this year, we have decided not to pay the paddy rents as being charged by the army, but everyone fears for the arrest”, said the farmer.

According to the farmers, the farmlands were made by them clearing and cutting heaths and moors on a self-help basis in accordance with the official permit during the reign of BSPP regime. The lands were confiscated by the army in cooperation with the township authorities in 2004, as the lands were not registered with the land registration office in their names.

“There are so many acres of farmland the army battalions have forcibly confiscated in Arakan State. Most of the farmland in the rural areas is not registered with the land registration office because the farmers there are uneducated. The army battalions have confiscated all of those lands. They have used some of the lands for building their stations, but have been renting out most of the lands to the farmers again for cultivations in a manner similar to the Indian Chettairs during the British colonial rule, collecting a rental charge of 25 to 50 baskets of paddy per acre depending on the quality of farmland from the farmers”, said a school teacher from Minbya.

Nearly 5,000 acres of farmland in the villages of Pardalate, Krwetay, Chilunpin, Ngatauktak, Kyarmathauk and Krakkaingtan in Sittwe Township has also been confiscated by the army battalions LIB-232, LIB-344 and Education-10 stationed in the area, renting out the lands to the farmers in a similar manner.

According to the farmers from Kyauktaw and Ponnakyaunt townships, estimated 10,000 acres of farmland from those areas have been confiscated and rented to the farmers for cultivations by the local armies as well.

A farmer from Apaukwa Village in Kyauktaw Township said, “The army LIB-379 has confiscated 300 acres of farmlands in our village and rented back to the farmer who owned the lands for paddy cultivations with a rent of 50 baskets of paddy per acre for a year. There are so many other farmlands confiscated and rented by the local armies in our area and Ponnakyaun Township.”

The farmers said there is now no difference between Burmese army battalions being deployed in Arakan State and those Indian Chettiars who are well recorded in the history of Burma under British colonial rule for their atrocities of confiscating the farmlands from the Burmese farmers and renting the lands back to the farmers.
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