Farmers in Southern Part
V. The plight of farmers
(February 2003, Pa-an Townshi, Karen State)
On February 17’s night when the Mon community in En-du village of Pa-an Township hold the Mon National Day celebration, two SPDC’s drunk police officers tried to stab the members of celebrating committee.
The Mon people who live
in various parts of
En-du village community celebrated the MND ceremony in the evening and then continued with tradition Mon dancing. At that time, two police officers from a station 2 miles far from the village, Soe Min Aung and Yan Naing Soe, who are Burman, came to the village and started arguing with members of MND celebrating committee.
They said, ‘they do not understand what the meaning of Mon songs’ and try to stop the traditional Mon dancing. After 10 minutes argument, the police officers tried to stab two committee members with knives. Two men, Nai Gon and Nai Min Naung, were stabbed by knives and the first man got serious injuries in his stomach while the second man get serious injuries in his head. Then the police officers also threatened to throw a grenade into a big crowd. The two men were brought to hospitals for treatments.
Because of the disturbance created by SPDC’s police officers, the people who came to MND fled and separate away.
Accordingly to a member of MND celebrating committee, “we know the policemen came to destroy our MND, and they are not sincere’.
Village MND committee
Since February 12,
Burmese Army’s IB No. 62 based in
The battalion commander ordered 100 villagers from various villagers to clear bushes along pipeline route. They ordered the villagers to clear about 15 kilometers distance of pipeline route within 2 days. The route is between Htinn-yuu and Sakan-gyi villages and the soldiers forced them to complete clearing all bushes alongside of the route within 2 days.
Then, they also ordered the villagers to fence the route where the pipeline was on ground. The villagers have to find bamboo and other materials to fence the route. There were 10 places in 15 kilometers distance, where the villagers were forced to fence the pipeline.
Accordingly to a village, there were many women over 50 years and under 18 years working along the route.
On February 8, there was a gas pipeline explosion near Lamine village in Ye Township and therefore, the soldiers ordered to the villagers to clear bushes where the rebel could hide and to fence on ground pipeline route to prevent from the attacks.
The authorities and Burmese Army also ordered the villagers that if the pipeline is demolished near their farms or villagers, they must face punishment. The Burmese Army always suspected that the villagers have cooperated with rebel soldiers in exploding the gas pipeline.
I. Farmers in Southern Part of
In the southern part of
lowest lands of the southern part of Burma (along Mon State and Tanesserim Division) are close to the sea and the farmers
who live in that areas were likely growing paddy and other crops in their
low-land area. And in the mountainous
areas along the border with
Since BSPP era, the governments had bought paddy from the farmers at
low price to stock the supplies for their servants and for export to foreign
countries. After SLORC/SPDC seized a
bloody coup from the pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988, the regime have kept
the same policy and have monopolized on the products of the agriculture
according to their monopoly policy in markets and crop export to foreign
countries. So, the regime started to
buy the agricultural products such as paddy, sesame, beans and rubber at the
lowest possible prices from the farmers in the whole
Under the SLORC/ SPDC’s monopoly policy, the native farmers were forced to sell one-third or nearly half of their crops to state regime’s “Agricultural Products Trade Department” crop buying centers after harvest seasons. In every years, the regime usually manages to buy all sorts of crops from the native farmers and always set at the lowest price which were less than three or four times in the current market’s price.
Therefore, the native
farmers of the southern part of
In every year, accordingly to the state regime’s orders, Agricultural
Products Trade Department (APTD) have opened many paddy- buying centers in all
10 townships and forced the farmers to sell their paddy at low price that is
8-10 times less than the current market price in 2002-2003 paddy-buying period, which takes from November 2002 to March 2003. During 2001-2002 paddy-buying period the price of paddy was only 3 times than the price
paid by authorities, but the paddy price rocketed up in this year because less
amount of paddy produced in
In the buying paddy from farmers, the local authorities have used various ways including threatening to confiscate lands or detaining them or confiscated their properties if the farmers are unable to sell their paddy. In order to manage buying the amount of paddy from the farmers, the local authorities also paid advance payment to every farmer about one-third of total payments during the farmers are planting their plants (in August or September). It means that the farmers must agree to sell their paddy to the buying centers and if the farmers could not afford to sell their paddy, the manager or the head of the buying centers could call the police to arrest those farmers. Or they could confiscate the lands owned by farmers.
Normally, the local farmers always refuse to receive the advance payments provided by the authorities, because they do not want to sell the set amount of paddy to authorities. However they are forced to take money and sign the contract that promising they would sell their paddy after harvest season.
The authorities from
APTD have set the amount of paddy that needs by farmers to sell to their
paddy-buying centers. Depending on the land
and soil quality in each Township, the set amount of paddy to
be sold to the authorities have also varied. While the authorities set to the farmers in
The following accounts
are the process of APTD authorities, Township authorities and village leaders
in forcibly buying paddy from the local farmers in some Townships in
Since the early of October 2002, the local authorities prepared to pay the advance payments for paddy buying project to the farmers in this township and forced the farmers to sign the contract that they promised to sell 15 baskets of paddy to the government set paddy-buying centers.
Because of flood in many paddy lands in the mid of rainy season (in
August and September), many farmers of
As an instance,
In the October 8, 2002, the Secretary of Mudon Township peace and development council, U Chit Yee, who are responsibility in buying paddy crops in coming harvest, entered many Mon villages in Mudon Township and forced the farmers to receive the advance payments. He forced the farmers through village headmen to promise they must sell the set amount of the paddy to the authorities in paddy buying centers.
According to the orders of the Secretary of Mudon Township, all farmers had to sell 12 to 15 baskets per acre of land with 350 kyat per basket to the paddy-buying centers. At that time, the rice price in the market was 2,000 kyat per basket.
So, the farmers were too
disappointed with the order because the farmers in the
According to the source of a farmer, 70% of farmers in this Township were not yet received the advance paddy payments in late October 2002, but the Township Authorities forced them to sign a contract in order to sell the set amount of paddy to the government buying centers.
According to a farmer from Yaung-daung village,
“Although they (the authorities) know about our problems, they just continuously asked the amount of paddy as they like. If we could not afford to provide, we would be detained and arrested by the authorities.”
Forcing, arresting and detaining the local farmers have regularly occurred every year in this year. Differently to the previous years, the authorities also threatened the farmers that if they could not sell the set amount of paddy, they would confiscate the farmers’ farmlands.
In this Township, the authorities planned to buy about 1.2 million baskets of paddy from the local farmers at low price.
Comparing with other townships in
As an instance,
In an order issued on
The authorities planned to buy about 4490 baskets from those 63 farmers in Ward and already ordered them in November before their harvest. According to instruction, the farmers are required to sell their paddy to the regime set paddy-buying centers first soon after their harvest. ‘Selling the complete requested amount of paddy’ by farmers is meant that that farmer complete the (State) duty accordingly to the authorities.
In the order, the authorities allowed 13 days to farmers to complete their duty. It described ‘the farmers in Shwe Myaing Thiri must complete selling their paddy without failure.’ It also means if they failed to sell they must be taken into courts.
The authorities requested farmers to sell about 15 baskets of paddy from one acre of their lands. This amount is nearly a half or over 30% of their produced amount of paddy from one acre. In reality, no farmer wishes to sell their paddy like this low price, 350 Kyat per basket while the market price for one basket of paddy was about 3000 Kyat.
SPDC’s ‘Agriculture Products
Trading Department’ has mainly taken responsibility in buying rice. ‘The purposes of buying rice at low price
are: to distribute with low price to government servants and soldiers; and to
export to foreign countries for profit,’ said by a government servant in
During the last rainy season of July and August of 2002, in many parts of northern Ye Township were under the big water flood and many farmers lost their paddy plants. Because of flood, the paddy plants in over 500 acres of paddy lands are destroyed in the whole Ye Township.
Flood lasted for nearly 3 months and farmers have no chance to re-grow their plants again. So, Some farmers from Kwan-duu and Sankale villages also informed about their crop situations to the village headman and the local authorities and requested to reduce the set amount of paddy that they needed to sell. But the local authorities replied that flooding was not their purpuses and the farmers must sell the full amount of paddy to the buying centers.
Since the beginning of rainy season, Ye Township paddy-buying authorities already paid the advance payments to buy the paddy from all the farmers after harvest. They set the price as 300 kyat per basket and every farmer need to sell 10 baskets per acre of land.
A farmer from Ye Township said, “the paddy cultivation lands in Ye Township is not good like Mudon or other Townships. The farmers could produce only 40 baskets per acre in maximum rate, but we have to sell to the authorities 10 baskets per baskets.”
One farmer form the San-kalae village complained that his paddy lands are totally destroyed during long period flood and he had no ways to sell his paddy to the authorities buying center. So, he needs to earn money by selling his own properties and buy paddy from markets at high price and then sell to the buying center at low price.
In Ye Township, even though the authorities set every farmers to sell 8-10 baskets per acre, because of the long period flood of the last rainy season, the paddy price are high and the farmer who have to buy paddy in the market would face a lot of difficulties, according to the a farmer from Ye Township.
When the authorities could not get the set amount of paddy from the farmers, they always the farmers are organizing to against the order issued by them. In that case, the authorities also informed soldiers and then the soldiers themselves involved in forcing the farmers to give them some amounts of paddy from the village.
In Ye Township, many Mon civilian families involved in growing rubber and fruit trees in the eastern part of Township area and some paddy cultivated farmers grow paddy in the western part of Township area. Many lands in eastern part if Township were confiscated by the Burmese Army’s MOMC No. 19 and its 10 battalions. Currently, the farmers, who grow rice in the western part of Township are threatened that if they could not sell the set amount of paddy to the paddy-buying centers.
Similarly to the Ye
As an instance,
On November 18, 2002, the manager of Yinn-nyein (of Paung Township, Mon State) Agricultural Products Trading Department, U Shwe Ko ordered to the farmers from six villages in northern Paung Township area to sign the contract to sell their paddy to designated paddy-buying centers.
In that order, Township authorities
also made a restriction against the farmers that if they failed to complete
their duties of selling the amount of paddy, the township authorities will not
issue their paddy husking permission to them. So that farmers
could not husk their paddy even their own. (In many Townships in
For this year buying season, the authorities planned to buy about the same amount as last year. The farmers from near Yinn-nyein Buying center, from villages Phyu-ka village, Ywatanshe village, Yinn-nyein south and north, Kyauk-yetwin, Ka-thight village, have been constantly forced since December 2002 to sell the set amount of paddy. Those villages were in the northern part of Township and farmers were ordered to sell 16 baskets of paddy per acre.
The same situation as
another township in
According to last year
paddy buying season, the local authorities have bought about 800,000 baskets of
If compared with other
Township areas, the rate that the authorities set amount of per acre was too
Some farmers in this Township who could not afford to sell their paddy or who have no paddy to sell to the authorities also have to buy the paddy at markets at high price and then sell to the paddy-buying centers at low price.
Even in the end of rainy season, many farmers in this Township could not complete selling their paddy and so that the authorities still came and forced the farmers to sell their paddy. Reduction for the set amount of paddy is considered only in some paddy-buying centers, but the farmers still have to sell the full amount of paddy.
compared with the another areas of Mon State, Kyaikmayaw
Township has low quality of lands because it situates far from the seacoast and
most of the paddy lands are locating in the flooding areas. So, normally the
farmers in this township could not plant their crops as early as rainy season
started like other townships in
However, Township authorities and the managers from Agricultural Products Trading Department or paddy-buying centers planned to buy about 350,000 baskets of paddy in this township. Since the earlier of cultivation in June and July, the authorities forced the farmers to receive the advance payment, which was nearly half of cash amount they would get after selling paddy.
Because of losing their crops, farmers are too disappointed with the paddy advance payments by the authorities. Most farmers said that they would face detentions by the local authorities if they failed to sell the set amount of paddy to the local buying centers as they have accepted the advance payment. Although many farmers would not like to receive this advance payment and signing the contract to promise they must sell their paddy, but they are forced by the authorities.
Although some farmers, who lost their crops informed the conditions of their plants to the authorities, but no responsibility was taken and complained by the authorities that the flood is not their concern. They said they did not need any complaints from the farmers, but forced them to sell the full amount of paddy.
According to the last year experience, the authorities from Agricultural Products Trade Department have planned to buy 500,000 baskets of paddy from the local farmers in this Township.
In comparing with the huge paddy lands Township in Mon State such as Mudon, Thanbyuzayat Township has less paddy cultivating lands and so, the amount of paddy required by the Township authorities is also less than Mudon Township, which situates in the northern part of this Township.
But this year, similarly
with another townships in
The authorities in this Township have set to farmers to sell about 500, 000 baskets of paddy to the paddy-buying with the price of 350 Kyat per basket, which is eight time less than in the market price.
In this Township, many civilian families have involved in growing rubber trees and raise their income and less than 50% of the total families involved in paddy cultivation. Some disappointed farmers also shifted their activities from paddy cultivation to be hard-labourers working in the rubber plantations.
Although SPDC authorities and troops of Burmese Army could not get access into all parts of Karen State, but they have some access to Mon and Karen villages, which situate along these river. Over 80% of the families in Mon villages are the farmers, who grow paddy and they have been constantly forced to pay various types of tax and money. They are similarly forced to sell their paddy to the authorities’ or Burmese Army’s set paddy-buying centers.
As the authorities and Burmese Army do not have full control or
influence like they have in the whole
If compared with Karen people who stayed in villages in jungles or forests in the mountainous areas, the Mon people who stayed along the rivers are suffering more from the possible buying of paddy in their villages. The village headmen also coordinated with the local authorities or Burmese Army in the attempts to get farmers’ paddy at low price.
The land’s soil in
The following accounts are how the authorities and Burmese Army forced the local farmers to sell their paddy at low price.
Started since November
As an instance,
In the order, it added that after deadline to complete selling the paddy to their paddy-buying center, if the farmers refused to sell the remaining paddy set by the authorities, the authorities also forced the farmers to complete their duties. Sometimes, the authorities went to farmers’ houses with the militiamen and arrest them to promise that they must be sell their paddy to the paddy-buying center.
In most cases,
As an instance,
In Htee-pauk-khlo village tract, there were three Mon villages in there, and In these three villages, Htee-pauk-khla village needed to sell 3,800 baskets of paddy, Tha-ya-gone village needed to sell 900 baskets of paddy and Shwe-la-inn village needed to sell 800 baskets of paddy each.
The authorities just forced the village headmen from Htee-pauk-khla because they are also village tract leaders to again force their villagers to sell the set amount of paddy to the paddy-buying centers in Htee-pauk-khlo village.
The farmlands’ soil in this Township area is
not good like the lands in
Likely many other townships in
This year paddy-buying season, the authorities planned to buy about 180,000 baskets of paddy at low price from the local farmers. They planned to buy 10 baskets of paddy per acre and Township’s Agricultural Products Trade Department set up at least one paddy buying center in every village tract (one village tract includes 4-6 villages) and forced the farmers from the villages nearby to sell their paddy. As the land quality of this Township are not so good, therefore, the authorities ordered to the farmers to sell only 5-10 baskets of paddy per acre of land.
As most parts of Township are not fully controlled by the authorities and Burmese Army and therefore, they just estimate how many acres in which village and then forced the farmers to sell the paddy accordingly to their estimation of lands. This mis-calculation of lands make farmers to sell more paddy to the authorities.
As an instance,
In March 2002, the local Agricultural Products Trade Department manager U kyaw Oo came to Kaw-ka-taw village and ordered to village headman that Kaw-ka-taw village must sell the paddy for 1200 acres of land with the rate of 5 baskets per acre. Actually, that village had only 600 acres of growing land and the village headman complained against the managers about the order.
But the manager, U Kyaw Oo refused and said that he got the order from the higher authorities and anyhow, the farmers needed to sell 6,000 baskets of paddy to the buying center with the rate of 5 baskets per acre. The authorities paid just 350 kyat per basket while one basket is about 1,500 Kyat in market.
The farmers are very disappointed because the quality of their lands is not good and they could produce only 25 baskets from one acre of land.
Even in the same Township area, the authorities set to some farmers in some village to sell 10 baskets of paddy per acre of land. For example, in Kaw-bein village tract, the authorities set up a paddy buying center and tried to buy 35,000 baskets of paddy from the farmers around the village.
As an instance,
In February 2002, the township’s PDC chairman, U Ko Ko Gyi ordered the Kaw-bein village tract that the farmers from that village tract needed to sell their paddy with rate of 10 baskets per acre. Many farmers could not afford to sell this amount of paddy and at the end of February, the buying center received only 25,000 baskets of paddy and therefore, the authorities forced the farmers again to sell the set amount of paddy as quick as possible to the buying center. The authorities bought with low price and paid only 350 kyat per basket. The Township PDC chairman, U Ko Ko Gyi also warned the farmers that if they failed to sell the paddy, they must be punished.
Sometimes, if the farmers refused to sell the remaining paddy set by local authorities, the authorities went to farmers’ houses with militiamen and forced them to promise that they must sell their paddy. Then, the farmers immediately arranged to sell their paddy to the paddy-buying center by taking their crops or by buying crops at high price in the market.
As an instance,
In the evening of
According to the villagers from Kaw-bein village, the using force against farmers to receive the set amount of paddy have been ceased for many years, but now it started again. Sometimes, the village headmen also cooperated with higher authorities from Township in forcing the farmers in their village as they have to become as village headmen for long term.
However as the authorities do not have firm control like
There are some accounts
In January 2003, the
township authorities and Burmese Army in
The township PDC
instructed to village headmen that every farmer in
In an order, the Township authorities also instructed to the villages in Min-thar village tract which includes Min-thar has to sell 800 baskets; Ye-ngan-gyi village has to sell 500 basket; Hmaw-gyi village has to sell 3500 baskets; Cha-taw village has to sell 1500 baskets; Le-gyi village has to sell 3500 baskets; Sin-gu village has to sell 3000 baskets.
They instructed to Thin-gun-kyun village to sell 1500 baskets of paddy and Talaing-myaw village to sell 1500 baskets of paddy. They also instructed to Gan-taw village tract that East Gan-taw village has to sell 8000 baskets and West Gan-taw village has to sell 15,000 baskets totally.
After the village collected the paddy in
their villages, then the Burmese Army and the authorities came into villages
and take the paddy along with them to their battalion bases or to town. In this
Since several decades, the farmers could not grow their rice and the farmlands in the area have been less because of the civil war. Land soil in the area is good and the farmers could produce paddy well, but they have to pay a lot of paddy to the authorities and Burmese Army. In many times, the Burmese Army does not buy any paddy from the villagers, but they just came into villages and just looted rice from the villagers.
V. The plight of farmers
Because of the regime’s forcibly buying policy to get paddy from the farmers as much as possible to assist their servants, soldiers and the members of GONGOs formed by SPDC, and to export rice to foreign countries, this makes the farmers to face suffering of in the deep cycle of poverty.
has never provided assistance for agriculture land development to prevent
natural flood and to have good crop production, but they just have demanded to
get more paddy crops from farmers to sell them at low price. Additionally, the regime authorities in
When the farmers failed to sell their paddy to the authorities or paddy-buying centers, the authorities also forced them to buy the set amount of paddy from the markets or from other farmers and give them. Sometimes, in some Townships, the authorities also asked money instead of paddy crops.
According to a woman
“This year I lost nearly half of my crops because of flood. The authorities from the paddy-buying centers set to sell 15 baskets for one acre of land to them. I have 10 acres of land and therefore, I was ordered to sell 150 baskets of paddy. We could produce only about 250 baskets of paddy and I have to pay for labour cost, fertilizer, hired oxen cost and other expenses. So I could sell them only 60 baskets of paddy and remained 90 baskets. I left nothing. Before harvest, they also borrowed money to us and force to sign the contract to sell the exact amount of paddy. They paid us 350 Kyat advance payment. Now, I could not sell to them and I complained to authorities that could I pay them money for 90 baskets with 350 Kyat per basket. But they said no. They told me to give money with the price of 3000 Kyat per basket. So that I have to pay them with 270, 000 Kyat for 90 baskets of paddy. Now I could pay them only 100, 000 Kyat that I borrowed from my friend. If I could not pay, they said they will confiscate my lands.”
Since the start of cultivation in late May or early June, each farmers have to pay for a lot of expenses. First most farmers need to hire labourers to help them work and hire oxen to plough their lands. But some farmers have enough oxen or buffaloes to do work, but most of them have to hire labourers. The labour cost for the whole cultivation is to pay them the cost of or give them 100 baskets of paddy.
Additionally, the farmers need to buy especially fertilizer to put in their lands to get increased amount of paddy because they have big duty to sell paddy to the authorities. They also have to buy agriculture equipment and other related materials. After ploughing lands, the farmers again have to hire day labourers to plant paddy plants in the farms. Depending on the space of their lands, they need to hire 5-20 labourers for one week to two weeks time. They have to pay 700 Kyat per day to each day labourers. In some farms, the farmers also need to hire day labourers to clear grasses among the paddy plants.
Then, in the harvest season (November and December), the farmers have to hire day labourers again to reap the grains of paddy. Depending on how big of their lands, they have to hire 5-20 labourers to reap the grains. They also have to pay 800-1000 Kyat per day for each labourer. Harvest time normally from one week to two weeks. After harvest, they also have pay transportation cost to bring their crops to their houses or to the government’s paddy-buying centers.
a farmer has to spend a lot of money to receive the crops as invested
money. When the farmers faced big flood
in rainy season in 2002, they lost their crops.
Therefore, the farmers are always in the circle of debts. To solve these problems, the farmers also
send their sons and daughters to