At Least 7 Dead, Dozens Missing in Magwe Land Dispute

By Zarni Mann 24 July 2019

MANDALAY—A land dispute between residents of two villages in Magwe Divison’s Yaynanchaung Township erupted into deadly violence on Tuesday, leaving at least seven people dead and 36 missing, according to police.

The clash began when dozens of residents of Pha Yae Kyun destroyed two houses they claimed was built on land within the village by residents of neighboring Kanthar, police said. The two villages are located on an island in the Irrawaddy River.

“Over 100 residents of Pha Yae Kyun traveled to Kanthar aboard motorboats [Tuesday] evening. They fought each other and two people from Kanthar village died in the clash. Later, residents [returning to] Pha Yae Kyun village rushed back onto a boat and it sank, as it was overloaded,” a duty officer at Yaynanchaung Police Station said.

According to police, rescue workers found five bodies in the river, including those of two women, and are still looking for 36 missing residents of Pha Yae Kyun village.

Police did not offer details on how the villagers in Kanthar were killed, but according to unconfirmed reports from local residents, they were beaten to death.

According to the police, at least 10 Pha Yae Kyun villagers were detained at Yaynanchaung Police Station, where police are investigating the incident and preparing to open cases against the suspects on counts of murder, causing injury, inciting a conflict and fighting.

According to the local residents, the land dispute between Pha Yae Kyun and Kanthar villagers began in June, when a similar conflict broke out. Local authorities had been attempting to negotiate the conflict, the residents said.

Most people on the island make their living growing crops on land divided up between the villages.

Islands in the Irrawaddy River face problems with land erosion and annual flooding. Farmland on the islands is usually divided up every year after the annual floods, but problems frequently arise over the distribution of the land. Authorities have been able to negotiate some of the conflicts, but occasionally they lead to violence.

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