The Straits Times
www.straitstimes.com
Published on Oct 23, 2012
 

Land battles surface in Myanmar as reforms unfold

 
 

MINGALADON, Myanmar (AP) - The landscape of Mingaladon township on the northern outskirts of Myanmar's main city tells a story of economic upheaval.

Skeletons of factories for a new industrial zone rise from thick green rice paddies local farmers say were seized by one of Myanmar's most powerful companies.

The fight over land in Mingaladon is one of many such battles in Myanmar. Human rights groups say land battles are intensifying because companies tied to the military and business elite are rushing to grab land as the country emerges from five decades of isolation and opens its economy. Not only that. The political change sweeping through Myanmar means farmers and others are challenging land confiscations in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

One Sunday in July, some 200 farmers took to the streets of Yangon, the main city, to protest the Mingaladon land acquisition by the Zaykabar Company. It was the first legal protest to be held in Myanmar since a 1988 uprising against military rule was crushed and came just days after parliament passed a new law allowing peaceful demonstrations. In the past, protesters have been arrested or shot.