YANGON -- The Anti-Corruption Commission of Myanmar (ACC) filed a suit against an agriculture and land management official in Mon State on Monday for allegedly soliciting bribes.

According to a statement by the ACC, U Win Aung, the former deputy head of the Agriculture Farmland Management and Statistics Department for Ye Township, asked 14 farmers for a total of about 5 million kyats (US$3,340) when they were applying to regain possession of farmland that was taken and then abandoned by the Myanmar military.

The Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, confiscated farmland across Myanmar in the early 1990s. The military held the land until it began to relinquish ownership in 2014. The Tatmadaw has abandoned 183 hectares of confiscated farmland in Ye Township.

The commission claimed that U Win Aung had abused his power and filed a case against him at the Ye Police Station under Section 56 of the Anti-Corruption Law. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison or a fine. In the time since the alleged abuse of power, U Win Aung has left his position in Ye Township and assumed the same role in the same department in nearby Mawlamyine Township.

According to the statement from the ACC, U Win Aung asked the 14 farmers to pay 100,000 kyats per acre in order to regain their farmland. The former Ye Township official allegedly asked for a much higher rate at first, for a total of 20 million kyats, but as the farmers couldn't pay this amount up front, he agreed to lower the demand to 5 million kyats and accept the rest at a later time.

Vice President U Henry Van Thio, chairman of the Central Committee for Scrutinizing Confiscated Farmlands and Other Lands, has been working to return the abandoned farmland to the original owners after confirming their ownership.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy, local lawmakers said they are not allowed to be involved in verifying the original ownership of the farmland despite the fact that they are members of the relevant local committees.

The township-level committee on confiscated farmland is tasked with inspecting claims of ownership for the land and then sending conclusions to the corresponding state-level committee.

The township-level committee is chaired by the director of the township general administration with a member of the Agriculture Farmland Management and Statistics Department as the committee secretary.

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