Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Govt land grabs rampant in Karen State, says report


Wednesday, 06 March 2013 19:09 Mizzima News

Land grabs increased in several areas inhabited by Karen ethnic minority people last year, according to a report released by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) on March 5.

The above photo was taken on August 1st 2012 and shows an active construction site in the Toh Boh area, Tantabin Township, Toungoo District, run by the Shwe Swan In Company. According to villagers in the area, the Toh Boh Dam operations, including the construction of large buildings to house hydropower generators in Toh Boh village, have resulted in the displacement of villagers. [Photo: KHRG]

"Throughout 2012, villagers in eastern Myanmar described land confiscation and forced displacement occurring without consultation, compensation, or, often, notification," said the report.

Research was conducted between January and November 2012 by the human rights group in seven occupied areas in Karen State. The investigation found that projects including logging, mining, building of infrastructure and a hydroelectric dam had led to evictions of local people from their lands with little compensation or advance notice.

A study titled “Losing ground: Land conflicts and collective action in eastern Myanmar” called for the local community to be included in all decision-making and for the government to protect existing land use and tenure rights.

Speaking to Karen News, a villager from Yetwin Khone village said, “We now have to pay fees to rent our own land. We have been working on our own land for so long—I feel pain in my heart that we have to pay the fees. I heard that people who can pay extra money would have a chance to farm.”

In January 2012, the Myanmar government signed a preliminary ceasefire with the Karen National Union, one of the country's largest rebel groups, suspending a civil war that been waged since 1949. Following the ceasefire many industries have looked to enter the resource-rich Karen region.

“While ceasefire negotiations are ongoing, investors and other development actors should proceed with extreme caution” on projects that require land confiscations because of possible outstanding claims by refugees or people who are currently displaced, the KHRG report added.
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