Six Karenni Farmers Arrested Under New Charges

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Six farmers from Karenni (Kayah) State’s Demoso Township were imprisoned on Monday following a court hearing at which additional charges were laid against them in a case involving the use of land seized by the Burma Army.

The six are part of a group of 15 defendants who appeared in court to face charges of violating Article 447 of Burma’s Penal Code, which calls for fines or imprisonment for criminal trespassing.

At the hearing, six members of the group were detained under Article 6-1 of the code. They were taken into custody at the Demoso Township court of law and are currently being held in prison in the state capital Loikaw.

“Six Karenni farmers from the village of Dawsoshay are now in detention. They were charged under Article 6-1 and can’t be released on bail. So they will have to face trial from prison,” said Khu Oo Reh of the Karenni State Farmers’ Union, a local advocacy group.

The six who were taken into custody on Monday were identified as Persakwer Leh, U Thomas, Kyaw Kyaw, Mer Tier, Nga Reh, and Ai Be, who were all charged under Article 6-1 for destruction of public property.

“We are not afraid. They don’t allow us to work on the land. What should we eat? Our rice pot is there. We live with the earth and we will die with the earth,” a Karenni farmer who lost 20 acres of his farmland in the village of Dawsoshay said to NMG.

The Burma Army’s Artillery Battalion 360 seized nearly 200 acres of land around the village in 2002-2003. In previous years, the farmers were allowed to cultivate the land if they sought permission from the battalion commander, but this year that permission was denied.

Regarding the prosecution of the farmers, Khu Oo Reh said that the government and the army do not recognize the rights of indigenous people.

“Article 6-1 is related to destruction of public property. Actually, they are going to work on their own farmland. This prosecution is absolute nonsense. It’s baseless. They [the government] fail to respect the rights of indigenous people. The government has prosecuted Karenni youths and the army has prosecuted Karenni farmers. I think they are abusing us,” he told NMG.

According to the Karenni State Farmers’ Union, a total of 27 Karenni farmers from the village of Dawmukalar in Loikaw Township and Dawsoshay in Demawso Township have been prosecuted by the army. Some farmers have been detained in prison.

A committee member of the Kayah State parliament was also charged under Article 6-1 because he tried to take record the confrontation between Karenni farmers and soldiers in Dawmukalar on June 21. He has been detained in Loikaw prison.