Myanmar farmers find little relief from land grabs
DALA, Myanmar (AP) - Just after dawn, plainclothes Myanmar naval officers entered a wooden shack and roused a young rice farmer from his sleep. They marched him to their nearby barracks and locked him up without explanation.
By the time The Khaw Lu Maw was released, the shack that had been his lifelong home was gone, his belongings scattered amid the debris. One by one, other homes in the riverside community of Dala were bulldozed. Residents had farmed the land for generations, but the navy took it over this year to expand a base.
"They want to show us they're the ones with the power," he said, his eyes welling with tears. "That they can do what they want."
Recent political reforms have won Myanmar widespread praise and the lifting of international sanctions, but for farmers who happen to be in the way of military or business plans, land rights have improved little since a half-century era of military rule ended in 2011. It is a recipe for strife in a country where 70 per cent of the labour force depends on agriculture, and where foreign investors, often working with current or former military officials, are scrambling to build roads, factories, power plants, bridges and industrial-sized plantations.