At a public meeting on May 7, Mon State Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan told attendees that his office would crack down on administrators and village headmen who sell public land to outside real estate developers. Speaking at the State Hall in the Mon capital of Mawlamyine (Moulmein), he said the government would take action to stop the illegal sale of land, which is often divided into smaller plots or stripped of its topsoil for resale.
“Many administrators and headmen of villages, quarters and towns are selling land for apportionment and selling the soil. I would urge them stop as soon as possible. If they don’t, action will be taken,” the minister said.
He added that administrators and headmen have specific duties that they should focus on, which do not include selling public land. If action is taken against these headmen and mayors, their associates will also be implicated.
The chief minister also railed more broadly against corruption in the state, saying that it is the responsibility of citizens to report specific instances of bribes being paid or solicited to the state government.
“If anyone knows of a specific bribe—who gave money to whom, how much they gave—they should tell us and we will act. If we only hear general accusations of bribery, though, it is harder to do anything about it.”
Public lands in Mon State were designated under the British colonial government and are used by residents for things like grazing and collecting firewood. Recently, though, some administrators and headmen have been selling the land to outsiders, who then have the legal rights and proof of ownership for the land. Because it has been paid for and the title transferred, it is hard for residents to reclaim their land.
“Our village used to have public land, and when we asked the older men they told us that the land was owned by the village for as long as they could remember. Now, though, the land has private owners who say that they bought the land from the former administrator. They have the deed of sale so they are legally the owners,” said the headman of a Kyaikmaraw township village.
At the meeting on May 7, Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan said that he had already held public meetings in Chaungzon, Kyaikmaraw and Thanbyuzayat townships.