Farmers in Mongkai say they can’t claim ownership of their land because it is officially within a protected forest area.

An elected representative for Mongkai constituency in Shan State is calling on the government to allow farmers cultivating paddy fields in a protected forest to register their ownership of the land and withdraw it from the conservation area.

Mongkai Township MP Sai Seng Mueng, who raised the issue in Parliament on Wednesday, said the land in question is in Ward 3 of Mongkai town and other village-tracts in the township.

Dr. Ye Myint Swe, the deputy minister for natural resources and environmental conservation, replied that the government has no plan to exclude the farmlands from the protected area.

He added that the chief minister of each state or region can raise the issue of restructuring administrative areas directly with the President’s Office.

Speaking to SHAN on Thursday, Sai Seng Mueng said that he demanded that the government remove the farmland from the designated conservation area so that the farmers can claim ownership of the land.

I made the demand because the Agriculture Ministry won’t issue Form 7 [farmland ownership] papers to the farmers as long as their land is part of a protected area. That’s why I want the Forest Ministry to inspect these farmlands, he said.

He said he also called on the government to help the farmers apply for Form 7 approval.

To this, deputy minister Dr. Ye Myint Swe said that the government would issue the forms after the farmlands are removed from the conservation area.

He then reiterated that his ministry would not be able to address the issue until the chief minister for Shan State raised it with the president. It would then be up to the president to decide whether to sign a recommendation letter that would meet the farmers’ demands, he said.

Source: The Shan Herald Agency for News