Yangon – The military has sued 27 farmers in two Kayah State townships for allegedly trespassing and farming on Tatmadaw (military) land.
The armed forces have filed about 50 lawsuits since July against the 27 farmers.
Artillery and infantry battalions in Loikaw and Demoso townships started building fences in May despite not using the land that was seized from farmers in 1990, according to the Karenni State Farmer Union (KSFU).
The land had been farmed for about 50 years and the communities had Form 7 land-registration certificates, Khu Tu Reh, chair of the KSFU, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
A total of 27 farmers from the two townships have been sued under Articles 447 and 427 of the Penal Code for trespassing and causing damage, and separately for breaking military fences under the Public Property Protection Act.
The laws carry maximum sentences of between three months and seven years.
Khu Tu Reh said the farmers have been sued several times under the same laws by different military officers.
Twelve farmers, including a woman, have been detained. The other 15, including four women, were granted bail.
Khu Tu Reh said their families were suffering considerable hardship because of lost income and disruption.
The military was unavailable to comment.
“Illegal seizure of farmland is a violation of land rights. The government should not neglect the issues. It should handle land disputes involving the military responsibly and address the grievances of the farmers,” said Maung Saungkha from Athan, a group advocating freedom of expression.
He told The Irrawaddy that legal advisory offices in Kayah State had failed to block duplicated lawsuits submitted by the Tatmadaw.