MANDALAY — Dozens of police officers are currently holed up in a village school in Mandalay Division, surrounded by angry local residents, after three people were shot on Thursday as police opened fire on farmers attempting to reclaim lands confiscated by Burma’s military.
Local residents said about 50 police officers forcibly entered the village of Nyaung Wun in Sint Gu Township on Thursday morning, where they were then confronted by a crowd of villagers at the local sporting grounds who demanded to know why they were there.
Three people were shot, with one woman seriously wounded and the other two sustaining only minor injuries, while another man was temporarily detained.
“The police gave no answer but then opened fire and Daw San Kyin Nu was injured on her leg. U Myint Kyi was arrested. Then the farmers and villagers got angry and clashed with the police,” said U Pannita, a monk who witnessed the incident.
“The police took refuge at a village school located close to the sports grounds. Villagers have surrounded the school and asked police for the release of the villager, to explain what’s going on and bring justice for the shooting,” local resident Khin Maung Tint explained.
Some police officers have since fled to safety, while most remain trapped in the schoolhouse, local residents told The Irrawaddy.
According to the villagers, the woman who was seriously wounded was transported to the city of Mandalay for treatment, while the detained villager was released.
“She was bleeding a lot as the bullet went through her leg. The hospital in Sint Gu said they could not handle her because of the heavy bleeding. Some villagers are accompanying her to Mandalay,” said a villager.
Since June, farmers from Nyaung Wun village have begun the process of plowing lands confiscated by the military in what has become an increasing common protest against land grabs in Burma.
Nearly 7,000 acres of land around Nyaung Wun village was confiscated by the Burmese Army in the 1980s. The land was later leased to a company called Great World, which has since converted some of it into a sugar plantation.
About 2,000 acres of the confiscated lands were being plowed by the villagers, who are asking that all the seized farmland be returned to them.
“We heard the army would give up the confiscated lands and we submitted several appeals to get back our lands,” said Tin Maung, a villager. “But neither the army nor the company has replied, that’s why we are trying every means to win back our lands, and we want justice for what the police did to us today.”
This is a developing story.