BURMA: Local officials illegally confiscate land from elderly farmer


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-079-2008
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Impunity, Judicial system, Land rights, Rule of law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained detailed information about a case of land confiscation in the delta region of Burma. Officials in Pantanaw illegally confiscated land belonging to elderly farmer Daw Thein Hmyin after she made a complaint that one had encroached on one of her smallholdings. Although she has written letters to various government officials higher up, so far she has received no response. Her case is indicative of a very big problem of arbitrary land confiscation in Burma.


Daw Thein Hmyin is an elderly villager of Pantanaw, a township in the delta area of Burma west of Rangoon. In 1992, she donated a quarter-acre block of land to her local monastery; her son continued to work the rest of the block until 2005 when a new monastery official led a group of men to come on to the rest of the block and cut down all the trees one night, claiming that it was also the monastery’s land. Thein Hymin complained to local officials and took a case to court. She lost the case on the grounds that there were no witnesses to the incident. No one argued that the land was not her land. On the contrary, local officials supported her claim to the land. So after that her family again cultivated plants on the block.

In October 2007, Thein Hmyin complained that a new local official had taken another area of land owned by her and was using it for his personal benefit. She stressed that only he was doing this, not any other officials.

However, it appears that the official used his authority against Thein Hmyin after she complained, because later in the month she received a letter to go to the township council office where it was decided that the block of land next to the piece she had donated to the monastery was not hers after all, despite all evidence to the contrary, on the grounds that her documents of ownership were forged. Then, on October 25, around 40 persons entered the block and again cut down all the trees and erected a fence.

Thein Hmyin has sent letters of complaint to higher authorities but so far has received no reply.


Thein Hmyin’s case is typical of thousands across the country where local villagers have had land confiscated on one pretext or another by petty officials and have no recourse. One prominent lawyer who has specialised in such cases has literally hundreds of complaints that he is handling; however, the prospects for success are slim where there are no independent courts or other avenues for redress, and where land is still technically owned by the state under socialist-era regulations.

By making complaints Thein Hymin risks retribution from vindictive officials not only against her assets but also against her person. Many other farmers who have complained have themselves been charged and jailed by angered local authorities. See for instance those cases listed in UA-054-2007.

For further general information on Burma see also the 2007 AHRC Human Rights Reportchapter on Burma, a comprehensive report–“Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia“–by the AHRC’s sister organisation, and the AHRC Burma homepage: http://burma.ahrchk.net. 



Please write to the persons listed below to request an investigation of Daw Thein Hmyin’s complaint. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, the International Labour Organisation’s representative in Myanmar and the UN Southeast Asia human rights office calling for intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Elderly farmer’s land illegally confiscated

Details of victim: Daw Thein Hmyin (daughter of U Pu Aye), Kazinngu village, Pantanaw Township, Ayeyarwaddy Division
Alleged perpetrators: Group of around 40 persons under direction of U Shwe Boe, Chairman, Pantanaw Township Peace and Development Council 
Date of incident: 24 October 2008

I am writing to express my concern about the alleged illegal confiscation of land belonging to an elderly farmer in the delta region of Myanmar and to call for your intervention to see that the land is properly restored to its rightful owner.

According to the information I have received, Daw Thein Hmyin on 23 December 1992 donated a quarter acre of land from block no. 496, owner 80/61 in Pantanaw Township to her local monastery. However, on 19 June 2005 the chairman of trustees at the monastery, U Tin Nyein, led a group of 26 persons at nighttime to enter the rest of the block and cut down the fruit trees grown there on the pretext that it was also part of the monastic land. Thereafter, Daw Thein Hmyin opened case no. 3/2005 in the Pantanaw Township Court under Penal Code sections 443/427 (trespass and mischief causing damage) and on appeal at the Ma-ubin District Court (revision case nos 11/06 and 12/06). Although the case failed because of a lack of witnesses, local officials, including the then-village chairman, U Soe Han, and the township land registrar, U Than Aung, supported her claim to be the land’s rightful owner. After that she continued to grow trees on the block.

Then on 2 October 2007 Daw Thein Hmyin sent a complaint letter to the head of the Southwestern Military Command at Pathein, Maj-Gen. Thura Myint Aung and the director of the Department of Land Records of Ayeyarwaddy Division that the chairman of Letpankone Village Tract Peace and Development Council, U Aung Myint, had taken over around two acres of another parcel of her land for personal use (Plot No. 504 Owner No. 39/9). She stressed that it was the chairman alone, not the council, who had taken the land.

However, instead of getting a favourable reply, she was called by the Pantanaw Township Peace and Development Council chairman, U Shwe Boe, for a meeting about the ownership of the area of land that she had partly donated to the monastery (18 October 2007, Letter No. 5/3-Ga/Oo 6-PaYaKa–PaTaNa). On October 24 she and her son went to the office and were told that they had no right to the land on the claim that the records of ownership were forged. Thereafter, on October 25, some 40 persons entered the block and again cut down all the trees–including coconut palms, cocoa, jackfruit, orange and lime trees, bamboo, banana palms, pineapples, mango trees and tumeric–and erected a fence. After that, Daw Thein Hmyin again sent complaints to senior officials but got no replies.

Given that the economic and food conditions in Burma are dire, I would not expect that government authorities would devote their energies to the cutting down of fruit trees and taking over of productive land being used by villagers. However, I am regrettably informed that such incidents are widespread in Burma and are in fact one of the contributors to the hunger and malnourishment that millions of people living there face daily.

Accordingly, I call upon the senior authorities in Myanmar to demonstrate a real commitment to food security and the rights of villagers and in the first place order a full outside investigation into this incident so that Daw Thein Hmyin can have her land restored and receive compensation for her lost crops. I also expect that disciplinary and legal action will be taken against the council officials found responsible for this incident. Secondly, I urge the government of Myanmar to see that all such incidents are similarly investigated and the victims redressed, not only for their own sakes but for the sake of the prosperity and development of their country as a whole.

Yours sincerely


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-079-2008
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Administration of justice, Impunity, Judicial system, Land rights, Rule of law,