Khin Shwe, the chairman of Zay Kabar Company and a member of Burma’s Lower House, will face a lawsuit filed by farmers from Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township whose farmland he allegedly confiscated.
The farmers were previously allowed to continue growing paddy and other crops even after their lands were seized, but they are no longer permitted to do so. Many have been threatened and told to vacate the land, that’s why they are preparing to sue him, said Kyaw Sein, a farmer who lost 50 acres of land.
Over 1,000 acres of land belonging to more than 70 farmers at Mingaladon’s Apaung, Shwenanthar and Paungku villages were reportedly confiscated in 2010 with compensation paid out at 300,000 kyat [US $390] per acre.
A number of aggrieved farmers told The Irrawaddy that Khin Shwe claimed that no compensation needed to be paid as those lands had been confiscated by the state to build nationalized factories and workshops. Khin Shwe allegedly told the farmers that the 300,000 kyat-per-acre payments were made “out of sympathy.”
“We are being forced to get off our own land and the company is threatening legal action against us. So we have authorized someone to act on our behalf in filing a lawsuit against Khin Shwe,” said Kyaw Sein.
The chairman of the Peace and Diversity Party, Nay Myo Wai, who was appointed by the farmers as their representative, told The Irrawaddy that he is preparing to sue Khin Shwe for land confiscation and abuse of state power.
He said he is currently in consultation with legal experts to submit a case for 815 acres of land belonging to 35 farmers, and hopes to file it in the coming days.
According to prominent lawyer Aung Thein, the Lawyers’ Network will provide the plaintiffs with all the necessary legal assistance.
Ohn Myint, a woman who lost 14 acres of farmland and a garden, told The Irrawaddy that she is concerned about her livelihood.
“I had to survive by selling papayas and bananas following my land confiscation. But, those trees were recently cut down so I don’t have anything left. Besides, I am being forced to move out,” she said.
She said that Myint Zaw, the manager of Zay Kabar Company, visited the area and told farmers to destroy their huts and leave.
She said that the farmers' discontent is fueled by reports that Khin Shwe is allegedly preparing to sell the land to foreign companies at inflated prices.
The Irrawaddy was unable to to contact Khin Shwe for comment.
The current price of an acre of confiscated land is reported to be between three and four million kyat [$3,896—5,195].
In 2011, Khin Shwe, an in-law of the Lower House’s current speaker Thura Shwe Mann, reportedly seized farmlands in Mon State in order to build a cement factory. No action was taken against him at that time.