In a first step toward simplifying procedures for reclaiming farmland confiscated under the former regime, the government has issued temporary documents allowing former owners to take back their land.

The so-called Form 3 certificates were issued at a ceremony on July 9 in Madaya township, Mandalay Region, to allow 32 former owners to take back 208 acres (83 hectares) of land seized by the Ministry of Industry in 1978 at Yay Nant Thar village. The land was transferred to the Ministry of Health in 1990 to build a leprosy hospital, but the original ownership was not disputed.

A further 1100 acres are still under scrutiny and will be returned later, according to the regional farmland management and land records department.

Vice President U Henry Van Thio told participants in the ceremony the land had been restored as part of a government drive to simplify and speed up the process of restoring land seized by the former regime to its rightful owners.

“As everyone knows, it takes so long to deal with legal documents because we need to make sure of the facts. As State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said, we seek a fair solution for land problems. Our economy is based on agriculture, so farmers are the lifeblood of the country. Therefore, our government considers land problems as our first priority. We have now amended procedures so as to reduce the lengthy process of dealing with legal documents,” said the vice president.

To resolve widespread land-grab problems, President U Htin Kyaw established the Central Committee for Re-scrutinising Seized Farmlands and Other Lands in May, and appointed Vice President Henry Van Thio as chair. Union ministers and chief ministers for regions and states are also members.

The vice president urged committee members at the states and regions level to organise training workshops to promote knowledge of farmland law and procedures.

“We need to do this right in accordance with the law and procedures, as farmland management has a direct connection with the promotion of socio-economic development,” said the vice president, promising a “sympathetic” attitude toward claimants.