Government, farmers battle for land in Loikaw

A plan to erect nearly three dozen government buildings in Loikaw has set off alarm bells among local farmers who claim the proposed location sits atop their land. Famers have contacted the State Counsellor’s Office requesting the Union government intercede.

The township administrator sued area farmers in January for trespassing on the disputed 77 acres, while the farmers claim to have long tilled the plot, unaware of any plan to put up government offices.

Loikaw Township Administrator U Kyaw Moe told the Kantarawaddy Times that the process of measuring the land and preparing to build will continue to move forward despite the opposition, as he is confidant the land was already allocated for the project years ago.

“The town plan was written in 2013. This land has been allocated for 34 government buildings,” he said.

Kayah (Karenni) State Farmer Tar Moi said that the farmers working the land were never informed about the office arrangements.

Some of the local residents said the government incorrectly identified plot 154 as field 166, which they claim has caused the confusion.

Another local resident, Saw Lu Ku, said a portion of the disputed acreage is owned by the People’s Militia (Hoya area), formerly known as the Karenni National People's Liberation Front (KNPLF), and their family members.

He said the military government had previously confiscated the land for alleged security reasons.

But U Aung Phyo Thaw, head of the Loikaw Township Farmland and Land Records Department, refuted the farmers’ accounts. He said the 77 acres were registered as field number 166 in the official records.

The Loikaw District Administrator claims to have invited the farmers to negotiate an agreeable resolution to the land issue in December 2015. But the in July 2016, the Loikaw Township General Administration Department posted a notice warning against trespassing on the land, which it said was allocated for the slated government offices. The department announced that action would be taken against any violators under Section 188 of the Penal Code.

On May 9, the farmers reported the land dispute to the State Counsellor’s Office.
 
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited Laignee Barron