Farmers Arrested in Mandalay Division

By Zarni Mann 5 January 2017

MANDALAY — Twenty-one farmers from Khan Lu village in Mandalay Division’s Sintgaing Township were arrested on Tuesday amid an ongoing land dispute trial with local authorities.

All 21 farmers—including 16 women and a six-month-old child—were not arrested immediately but were told they would face trial in the township court following a dispute with a local military security unit that attempted last week to fence confiscated land, which the farmers claim is theirs.

“The farmers were told by local police officers that there would be no arrest; however, they were arrested at the court and charged with trespassing and destroying property, which does not offer bail,” said Nay Aung, a farmer who has also had his land confiscated.

“They were sent to Mandalay’s Obo Prison,” he added.

More than 70 acres of land owned by 24 farmers was confiscated in 2001 by the military security unit. The farmers received minimal compensation for their crops.

The farmers say they were told they could continue to grow crops on 50 acres of confiscated land that were not being used by the authorities. The military security unit began fencing the land in August.

“We’ve sent an appeal to Naypyidaw and asked for our land back, as we heard in 2015 that most of the confiscated land would be returned to farmers,” said Nay Aung. “We’re still waiting for a response.”

The farmers said they were appealing to the State Counselor’s Office, President Htin Kyaw, Vice President Henry Van Thio—who chaired the Central Review Committee on Confiscated Farm Lands and Other Lands—and Burma Army commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing regarding the recent arrest of fellow farmers.

There are 29 farmers and land rights activists in Mandalay who have recently been put behind bars for charges of trespassing and destroying property.

Land rights activists Myo Win and Toe Gyi, who are also currently detained at Obo Prison, will also face trial in Mandalay, along with 12 other farmers who have had their land confiscated.

About a dozen farmers in Mandalay who have fought to have their land returned are on the regional government’s wanted list.