A plot of land in Mon State has sparked contention between township officials who want to use it as a location for an electricity substation, and members of a former militia who say they were given the parcel after turning over their arms.
The Ye Township Electricity Engineering Office escalated the dispute on September 4 by lodging a formal request with the Tatmadaw to evict the former militia members.
Around 20 ex-members of the Independent Mon National Restoration Force (IMNRF) say they have been living on the land near Ah Baw Village since surrendering in 2016. The Ministry of Electricity and Energy however, claims to own the land.
“We have obtained Land Form 105 [a land plot map] and 106 [land history]. We have requested funding from the upcoming state budget be allocated to build a fence for the 230kv power substation in this project area. That’s why we have submitted a request to [the Tatmadaw] to remove the homes of the militia group,” said U Nay Myo Aung, an official from the township electrical engineering office.
He added that the 63.5 acres are already slated for the substation project, which will distribute electricity the west of Ye township, an area that is not currently connected to the national power grid. He said that around K80 million in compensation was paid to farmers who he contends trespassed on the property starting in 2014.
However, the Independent Mon National Restoration Force, led by Nai Lwe, said the Tatmadaw gave them the property to settle on after they returned to the legal fold in June 2016.
“We are facing difficulties in making a living, but this place is peaceful. I want the authorities to have consideration [for us]. We want to settle here. We don’t want to move to another place. We have already spent money [to build homes] to settle here. We are assisting the Tatmadaw and the police in carrying out rule of law,” said Nai Lwe, the 70-year-old former militia leader.
U Aung Nai Win, a retired Tatmadaw major, said the authorities should help arrange accommodation and long-term livelihoods for the former militias to ensure they can successfully reintegrate into society under the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program.
“If they can’t arrange it, it will be difficult for [the former militia members] to survive in the long-run after giving up their arms. I worry about deviations from DDR and SSR [security sector reform] processes due to weaknesses in cooperation between the Tatmadaw and township and state-level officials,” said U Aung Nai Win.