Published on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 22:15
The Myanmar Peace Centre plans to raise the issue of land grabbing with President Thein Sein by submitting a report that includes specific cases from all over the country, its managing director said.
Kyaw Soe Haling also said that the centre would push the government to alleviate poverty, adding that the centre estimates that about 70 percent of the population lives in poverty.
The most critical problem faced by farmers across the country is land grabs by the military, by government agencies for national projects, and by business interests, he said at meeting of farmers earlier this week.
The land-grabbing cases and the call to alleviate poverty will be submitted to the president through Presidential Office Minister Soe Thein, Kyaw Soe Hlaing said.
Win Naing, a representative of a farmers’ group in Mandalay, said that when their land is taken for national projects farmers often lose more than is necessary. Moreover, they often either do not receive compensation or are given land that is not arable, he said.
Kyaw Swar Soe, chairman of the Farmers Development Party, said an effort to form a national union of farmers had been blocked. The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation refused to issue a permit, arguing that such a union did not conform to a directive issued in 2009 by the military regime, he said.
One participant used the meeting to call on the government to distribute vacant land to farmers and to ban the sale of farmland to business people, including cronies.
Than Swe, chairman of the Myanmar Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Association, said he was suing a business for allegedly selling farmers low-grade fertilisers and pesticides. “Some private companies import low-quality fertilisers and pesticides and distribute them in collusion with government agricultural officials. I have sued one of those companies,” he said.
Farmers also discussed measures the government should take to address low prices during harvest, warehousing and transport. Farmers said that the price of rice fell too far during harvests, that there was unnecessary damage to paddy in warehouses due to the lack of modern equipment, and that poor transport was costing them up about 20 percent of sales.
Farmers called for a closer look at the membership of the governmental commission that investigates seized farmland, saying this would allow them to expose the real losses farmers are experiencing. They also said long-term agricultural loans would help develop the industry.
Myanmar Farmers Association chairman Dr. Soe Tun said he would ask the president to override the agriculture ministry and allow the formation of a national union of farmers. “The agriculture and irrigation minister does not allow the formation of a farmers’ union though the president has approved it. So, I will inform the president about this,” he said.
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