October 1, 2013
HURFOM: Residents of Anin village in Thanbyuzayat Township submitted an appeal to Mon State members of parliament last week seeking resolution to a land dispute they described as over ten years in the making.
In 1977, local man Nai Rin donated four acres of his land to the village for public use, and for decades residents dutifully maintained the property until a community project could be assigned to it. However, between 2001 and 2006 during the village administrative term of U Win Kyi, the land was allegedly parceled off to private buyers for 200,000 to 250,000 kyat per 40 x 60 foot plot.
Villagers assert that U Win Kyi, who now works with the area’s Burmese militia force, misused his authority and connections to local officials to sell the public land for his own profit. For years, residents said they were afraid to speak out against the sale due to the administrator’s considerable network of influential allies.
“While he was in charge, he used his power to exploit public land. But we did not dare say anything about it. But now we have the right to [speak out] so we submitted a letter of appeal to [senior authorities],” said a local man in an interview with HURFOM.
Compounding the community’s urgency to reclaim the land, earlier this year Anin received government approval for a hospital construction project in the village that would greatly offset current challenges to healthcare access. Village residents seeking medical treatment now have to travel to Thanbyuzayat or Ye City and are eager for a local facility, proposing Nai Rin’s four-acre public works donation as the ideal site for a future hospital.
In 2012, Anin villagers selected 36-year-old Nai San Aung, a local resident they said dedicated much of his time to the community, to serve as the newest village administrator. Since he accepted the position, many residents reportedly started talking in earnest about recovering the public land to build the hospital. The new administrator permitted residents to submit a letter of appeal to township-level administrators, members of the 88 Generation Students group, and Mon members of parliament asking for the land’s return.
Anin villagers said they submitted the letter five days ago but are not sure when the issue would be processed since many senior-level authorities have been engaged with the Mon National Conference in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State.