‘Plough pro­test­ers’ in Pyin Oo Lwin ar­rested, charged

The Myanmar Times - - News - KYAW KO KO kyawkoko@mm­times.com

FARM­ERS who staged protests over land grabs in Pyin Oo Lwin dis­trict are set to face charges, stand­ing ac­cused of try­ing to “de­stroy the coun­try’s peace and sta­bil­ity”.

At a press con­fer­ence on Novem­ber 18, the Man­dalay Re­gion gov­ern­ment con­firmed that ac­tion would be taken against the farm­ers and ac­tivists of Pyin Oo Lwin over their demon­stra­tions.

Ten farm­ers, in­clud­ing protest lead­ers Ko Myo Win, Ko Toe Gyi and Ko Min Min Soe, have been de­nied bail and charged un­der sec­tions 447, 440, 386, 114 and 323 of the pe­nal code. Po­lice have is­sued ar­rest war­rants for an ad­di­tional 10 farm­ers.

The farm­ers had held sev­eral “plough protests”, a form of demon­stra­tion where they till dis­puted land to sig­nify their claim to own­er­ship over it.

Re­gional po­lice force chief Ma­jor Han Tun said pri­vate en­trepreneurs have been us­ing land con­fis­cated by min­istries in the re­gion, with plough protests be­ing staged on the land. Pri­vate plan­ta­tion own­ers of­ten file com­plaints with the po­lice, he said.

From April un­til Oc­to­ber, 13 tres­pass­ing cases were opened in five town­ships of Man­dalay, Pyin Oo Lwin and Kyaukse dis­tricts.

The Na­tional League for Democ­ra­cyled gov­ern­ment has put in place dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nisms for con­tested land, re­gional Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Ir­ri­ga­tion U Soe Than said.

“The cen­tral com­mit­tee has sub­com­mit­tees, from re­gional or state, dis­trict and town­ship lev­els, down to ward or vil­lage level. These sub-com­mit­tees are sup­posed to present is­sues of con­fis­cated farm­lands to the cen­tral com­mit­tee,” he said.

“The cen­tral com­mit­tee is sup­posed to de­cide which lands are to be given back to orig­i­nal farm­ers if rel­e­vant min­istries can re­turn the land, or pay com­pen­sa­tion in ac­cor­dance with cur­rent land prices. If farm­ers can show that they are the orig­i­nal own­ers, we will give their land back,” he said.

“Ac­tion against farm­ers is not taken by the re­gional gov­ern­ment. The po­lice are deal­ing with claims filed by pri­vate plan­ta­tion own­ers be­cause they are fac­ing losses due to plough protests,” he added.

U Zarni Aung, the re­gional min­is­ter for elec­tric­ity, en­ergy and con­struc­tion, cau­tioned farm­ers against stag­ing more protests, ad­vis­ing that they should in­stead file com­plaints in ac­cor­dance with the law if they have been af­fected by land grabs.

But the gov­ern­ment’s mech­a­nisms for re­solv­ing farm­land con­fis­ca­tions aren’t prac­ti­cal, nor are they pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits to vic­tims of land grabs, said farmer and ac­tivist Ko Ye Yint Aung from Ma­daya town­ship. He said the com­plaint mech­a­nism is not fea­si­ble due to the sheer amount of time it takes for each case to be as­sessed.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

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