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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    4 September  2012

Yangon industrial zone stalls over compensation dispute


NEGOTIATIONS between a property developer and a group of 72 farmers who had 680 acres of land confiscated for industrial zones in Yangon Region are at a standstill, with the company refusing to meet the farmers’ demand for 10 percent of the market price of the land.

The farmers have negotiated with Wah Wah Win company four times without success, most recently in late August, said U Win Cho, a politician assisting the farmers.

“We are not defying them deliberately. We just demand 10pc of the land price in the industrial zone as compensation. … The company offered K3 million an acre,” U Win Cho said last month. “But we won’t accept any compensation less than 10pc of the land price.”

Land in the Hlaing Tharyar township industrial zone is valued at about K180 million to K200 million an acre, a company official said.

The farmers’ land was acquired by the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development (DHSHD) in the 1990s. Some of it was on-sold to Wah Wah Win in 1998 for the 600-acre Anawrahta Industrial Zone 2. Development work at the industrial zone got underway in 2010 and is about 90pc complete, Wah Wah Win general manager Daw San San Win said.

“They can demand what they want but our negotiation won’t be successful ... I really want to negotiate for all farmlands,” Daw San San Win said.
She said the farmers led by U Win Cho were almost the only former landowners in the area that were yet to reach a settlement with the company.

“We have negotiated successfully with hundreds of farmers – nearly 500 acres. If we can negotiate with the farmers led by U Win Cho, we can solve the problem of compensation for the farmlands,” she said.

Daw San San Win said Wah Wah Win had acquired the land legally from DHSHD, paying the department K4 million to K4.5 million an acre.
While it is not obligated to compensate the farmers, she said Wah Wah Win wanted to solve the dispute amicably and in a way that was fair to the original landowners.

“We didn’t grab the land from farmers for the industrial zone project. Many years ago, the government planned to implement industrial zones in rural areas. Many firms had to take responsibility to implement these zones and we were one of them,” she said.

“But while we are implementing the project, the protests happened. Though we didn’t grab their land, we have to solve the problem as it happened while the land is in our hands so we decided to give compensation.”

A senior DHSHD official, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the department took “many” acres of farmland in Yangon Region for industrial zone projects starting from 1995.

“But we took them fairly,” he told The Myanmar Times on August 27.

“Companies can’t just grab farmland – they have no authority to do that. The government did it, or rather DHSHD did it on behalf of the government. But we didn’t take the farmland without consideration. The department didn’t give cash as compensation. Instead, we gave land somewhere else,” he said.

However, the compen-sation was only given to farmers who paid cultivation tax regularly and who were registered as the tenants of the land with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation’s Settlements and Land Records Department.

“Now [the farmers] told journalists that they didn’t get compensation but I can say that the department gave land instead to every farmers who paid tax to the government and who was registered. Some might be lying or some might be the children or grandchildren of farmers [who received compensation] in 1995. If their father or grandfather got land in 1995, there’s no more compensation. You can’t demand compensation a second time, 16 or 17 years later,” he said.

But the official also said companies were partly to blame for the recent spate of land protests in Yangon’s mostly dormant industrial zones.

“The government told all companies to implement industrial zones and build the infrastructure within three years. But they didn’t do anything with the land. In some cases, they didn’t even make a fence. Farmers thought the land was empty and some even farmed it and this meant the problem became bigger. If someone has already bought something, it is up to them to maintain it,” he said.

Despite having vouchers showing they had paid tax, U Win Cho said none of the 72 farmers he is representing received cash or farmland as compensation for their fields being confiscated.

He said some farmers received village land from DHSHD but he said this was only large enough to build a house and not equivalent to the farmland they lost.

Since they were evicted the farmers have been living in new villages in Hlaing Tharyar township. Most have no farmland and are day labourers, while a few have farmland in Htantabin township, on the eastern fringe of Ayeyarwady Region not far from Hlaing Tharyar.

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