Locals whose lands around Burma’s famous Inle Lake were confiscated due to a hotel zoning project are fleeing their villages in fear of being detained, after police arrested farmers there accused of illegally plowing lands seized by the hotel developers.
“Police were wandering around the village so that they [locals] were afraid and fled the area to avoid being arrested,” said Aung Kyaw Myo, from the village of Kan Bae.
According to Kan Bae locals, about 100 police officers entered their village, arresting four villagers without warrant.
When the police forcibly entered the house of Khin Maung Win, fellow villagers came to his assistance, blocking police vehicles and urging the authorities to release the detainees.
“The police broke down my door as I refused to open it. As soon as I ran upstairs, my wife shouted out and all the villagers came and urged them to release all of us. Later they released the detainees and left the village,” Khin Maung Win said.
“But they are still wandering around the village. So most of us are afraid to stay at home for we are worried that they might come back again and arrest us,” he added.
Over 600 acres of farm lands from six villages, including lands from nearby monasteries located on the east bank of the scenic lake, were confiscated in 2012 to build a Hotel Zone in the area.
Locals have complained that they did not receive adequate compensation for the confiscated lands, and have spoken out against the hotel development on environmental grounds.
Protestors began a campaign to win back their lands in December 2012. Some protesting farmers are currently facing trial for disrupting construction of the hotel project after they began to plow their confiscated lands last week in defiance of the hotel developers’ claims to the property.
“We already lost our lands, but now, we are being sued and will be arrested soon,” Khin Maung Win said.
Sanay Linn contributed to this story.