Funeral Held for Farmer After Land Seizure Protest

By Nobel Zaw 25 May 2015

RANGOON — A funeral has been held in Shan State for a farmer who last week immolated himself to protest the confiscation of his land by the military.

Myint Aung, 63, was on Saturday laid to rest in Ye Pu village, on the outskirts of Taunggyi. Nearly 600 people attended the funeral service, including other land confiscation victims from outlying towns and local political party representatives.

“I didn’t want him to sacrifice himself,” said Maw Maw Oo, his niece. She said her uncle’s actions had been motivated by his desire for justice for all villagers who had been evicted from their lands at the hands of military and government officials.

Myint Aung and his family owned about 14 acres of land that was seized by the military’s Eastern Command in 2004, as part of a 1,000-acre land confiscation which buttressed 5,000 acres appropriated by the command in 1994. Myint Aung and others were allowed to continue cultivating their fields for 10,000 kyats (US$9) per type of crop grown, per harvest, until a state government edict put a stop to the tenancy payments last year.

Myint Aung’s funeral pyre on Saturday. (Photo: Tin Maung Toe)

Last Wednesday, Myint Aung was told that the military were preparing to construct a barracks on his land, leading to a physical confrontation that drew in other local farmers.

Tin Maung Toe, the Taunggyi chairman of the National League for Democracy, said that Myint Aung was concerned for his family, with rumors circulating that one of his nieces had been detained in the aftermath of the incident

“On May 20 his family members slept on their fields, afraid the military would begin construction if they left for home,” he said.

Early the next morning, Myint Aung returned home to draft a letter, criticizing the village authorities and urging the return of all land confiscated by the military. He then walked onto the street, poured gasoline over his body and set himself alight. Tin Maung Toe said that the farmer suffered horrific burns to nearly 90 percent of his body and was taken to hospital before passing away on Friday.

Myint Aung in hospital. (Photo: Tin Maung Toe)
Myint Aung in hospital. (Photo: Tin Maung Toe)

Most of the mourners at Saturday’s funeral were farmers drawn from villages around Nyaung Shwe, Hopong, Heho and Taunggyi, who had similarly been victims of military land seizures in the area.

“Myint Aung set himself on fire without telling anyone about his plans,” Tin Maung Toe told The Irrawaddy. “He suffered so much before he died.”