Mongpan villager collapses, dies after land seizure dispute

A 74-year-old villager in southern Shan State’s Mongpan Township reportedly collapsed and died yesterday after a construction company refused to pay compensation for land it had seized from him.

According to the village-tract headman, who asked to remain anonymous, the fatality happened after a meeting at the local administration office between representatives of the Aung Myint Mo Company and 16 villagers whose lands had allegedly been used and damaged by the firm when they installed electricity transmission poles in the area.

“The farmers had previously insisted that no utility poles be built on their farmland,” he said. “In the past, some of the farmers’ lands were used for road construction, and they did not want their property used like this again.”

The headman said that the representatives of Aung Myint Mo Co disregarded the farmers’ request, and also refused to negotiate over any claims for compensation.

“They [the company executives] told the famers that they would not pay compensation,” he said. “Then they got up and left the meeting.”

Immediately afterwards, a 74-old year-old farmer named Loong Thin Ngwe collapsed. He died on the way to hospital, said the village-tract headman.

Erection of transmission poles in Mongpan began some three months ago as part of a project to connect the area to Mongton Township where a 7,000-megawatt hydropower project is slated to be built on the Salween River.

“We do not know how many acres of our farmland will be destroyed,” said Sai Lum, a Mongpan resident. “But they really do not care about our losses. They just do whatever they want. Their construction equipment is scattered all over our farmlands. More than 50 farmers have filed complaints about this.”

Representatives of Aung Myint Mo Company have so far made no comment about the death of Loong Thin Ngwe, nor the compensation claims.

According to Sai Wei Lin, the Mongpan administration officer, the problems came about because the construction firm neglected to inform the public about their operations.

Land confiscation has long been a major grievance among farmers and landowners in rural parts of Burma, with Shan State particularly affected. Many lands were seized during the era of the military junta; however some villagers have complained that little has changed under the elected government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to Nang Kaysi of the Ethnic Peace and Resources Project (EPRP), an organization that works to support the peace process in Burma, a total of about 11,000 acres of farmland have been seized within 18 townships across Shan State.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)