Fruit farmers whose land was seized more than 35 years ago to build a prison say it’s time they got their property back.

They say that of the 180 acres (72 hectares) seized by the Htone Bo Prisons Department in 1980, 100 was left unused. But now that land, in Patheingyi township, Mandalay Region, has been rented out to other farmers for an annual rent of about K6 million, they say.

If nothing is done to restore their land, they pledge to take to the streets in protest.

“We were never allowed to work on our land after they seized it. We wrote to the last government several times about this, but nothing was done,” said farmer U Kyaw Moe Than yesterday.

“Now we’ve also written to the new government. If we don’t get a solution within a month, we plan to stage a protest.”

Representatives of the 50 farmers told a press conference on July 14 that about 100 acres of the seized land had now been rented out to other farmers, who paid about K6 million a year in rent.

“We used to grow plums and mangos there. We were paid K25 per plum tree and K75 per mango tree, but we never received compensation for the land,” said farmer U Aung Myint.

The farmers have taken up their case with the Mandalay Region chief minister, the agriculture ministry and the Committee for Re-scrutinising Seized Farmlands and Other Lands.