Almost 250 farmers in Pathein Township said the project to turn their farmlands into a luxury hotel complex abutting the picturesque Ngwe Saung beach was a “land grab.”
The State Peace and Development Council seized the 101-hectare plot of land in 2000, but the farmers said the former regime’s land records department only paid them enough compensation to buy new plants and they got nothing for the land lost.
“We were forced from our lands, they said that everything—earth, water, air—belongs to the state so we have to move out,” Tin Htoo, one of the farmers, told The Irrawaddy. “When the incident took place, the authorities said they would provide us with replacement land, a place to live and also compensation for our plants. We haven’t received any thing for our lands; that’s why we have asked the president to address our grievances.”
Tin Htoo said even though their lands were taken more than 12 years ago they are still paying tax on the appropriated land.
“Give us compensation for our lands or return them,”
Land confiscation victims also pointed out that although their lands were taken for a development project, they have become poorer. Many of their children also had to drop out of school before graduating as their parents could no longer afford to pay for their education, they said.
“Some even have to work on daily wages at the hotels built on their lands. Some also have to go to the sea for fishing while some others have to sell barbecue frogs and fishes along the beach to survive.” He added that their current living conditions are very poor. The authorities relocated them to housing in a flood zone where there is no electricity.
There are 17 hotels by the beach and another five are under construction. Many are thought to be owned by cronies of the military junta that ruled Burma since 1962 until elections in 2010.