RANGOON — The police are investigating allegations that a military general with close ties to former dictator Sr-Gen Than Shwe threatened to shoot two farmers in Naypyidaw as part of an ongoing land dispute.
The farmers say Maj-Gen Soe Shein, once the personal assistant to Than Shwe, visited their land last month with a pistol and threatened to shoot if they did not vacate the property, which he claimed to own.
In a complaint filed jointly to the police, farmers Aung Than Oo and Khin Thint said the military general was not traveling alone when he visited them separately in Intaingtha village, Lewe Township, on July 5, after repeated warning not to cultivate the land.
“After intimidating Aung Than Oo, Major-General Soe Shein and his followers got to the farmland of Khin Thint at around 3 pm,” Ko Ko Naing, another farmer from the village, told The Irrawaddy. “We have been acting as a witness for the complaint that Maj. Hlaing Myo Win, one of Soe Shein’s followers, tried to punch Khin Thint.”
Maj. Hlaing Myo Win has reportedly been interrogated by the police but Soe Shein has yet to begin questioning.
The Lewe Police station, which received the complaint letter, will handle the investigation, according to Soe Min Thein, officer-in-charge of the station.
He denied allegations that the police would not investigate a high-ranking military official with ties to the former dictator.
“There is no such thing as no lawsuits against major-generals,” he said, adding that he was leading the investigation himself. “If there are complaints about them, cases must be opened.”
The two farmers had earlier struggled to open the case. Last month they went to the local police station in Intaingtha but were denied the opportunity to file a case and were told to instead submit it directly to the township court, according to another farmer who accompanied them. The court also refused to take the complaint and asked the men to go to the township police station, where they faced another rejection, he said.
“We tried to file the case at the local police station for two days but were not successful,” the farmer said. “We went to the court but were not allowed to do so because we didn’t have any authorized letter. We even went to the office of the national police chief located in Naypyidaw, which didn’t do anything and [authorities] only recommended that we go back to the Lewe police station.”
Soe Shein acquired the land in 2010-11 when he was working as Than Shwe’s personal staff officer, The Myanmar Times newspaper reported. But the farmers say he did not acquire the land fairly because he did not disclose that it was already being cultivated when he applied for ownership, the newspaper reported.
A military official with ties to the former dictator allegedly pulled a gun on farmers in Naypyidaw and ordered them to vacate their land.