Burma Army Prosecutes Karenni Farmers for Cultivating Seized Land

‘It’s like the visitors are suing the owners,’ the chair of the Karenni State Farmers Union says.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A total of 14 Karenni farmers are facing charges brought by the military, and two are currently in police detention, the Karenni State Farmers Union (KSFU) said.

Nine of the farmers are from Dawmukalar village in Loikaw Township and five are from Dawsoshay village in Demoso Township, according to local sources.

Most recently, locals went to their farmland, which was confiscated by the military, on July 2 to plant paddy seeds. While soldiers did not arrest them at that time, troops from Artillery Battalion 360 arrested them at home in the evening and seized a tractor.

“The soldiers transferred the farmers to the police station. Three farmers have been prosecuted. They have to face this case in court. Currently, they are released on bail,” KSFU chairperson Khu Tu Reh told NMG.

The two people in detention are Shar Reh, a farmer from Dawmukalar village and Koe Reh Soe Nyunt, a member of the Kayah State Peace and Rule of Law Committee.

Throughout June, Karenni farmers challenged the seizing of their farmland, attempting to plow it, calling for the army’s withdrawal from the land, and demanding it be returned to them.

Farmers and soldiers had a confrontation on the confiscated farmland after farmers erected a sign stating “this farmland has owners.” Soldiers responded with their own sign, which declared it as army land. The farmers removed concrete pillars that the military had set up to fence in the land.

“The army said that it’s their land. Local people tried to plant on the confiscated farmland. Then army tried to sue farmers. It’s like the visitors are suing the owners,” Khu Tu Reh said.

The lawsuits are being brought against Dawsoshay farmers by Artillery Battalion 360, and against Dawmukalar farmers by Artillery Battalion 360 and Light Infantry Battalion 250, he added. The charges include destroying private and public property, trespassing, and assaulting government staff.

Farmer Par Sakwarleh lost his land to the army. He told NMG that he would not give up trying to get it back.

“I will try to get back my farmland until I die. I cannot live without working on my land,” he said. “If they want to shoot me, I am ready to die. If they want to sue me, I am ready to face it. If they want to kill me, they can do it.”

The military has reportedly tried to sue 40 farmers in total from Dawsoshay in the month of June for attempting to plant seeds on confiscated land.

“We strongly condemn on what army has done so far to farmers. They are violating farmers’ rights. We will continue to work for farmers’ rights,” KSFU chair Khu Tu Reh told NMG.

KSFU maintains that there are multiple land confiscation cases in Loikaw, Demoso and Hpruso townships in Karenni state involving the military.