Loikaw Farmer Arrested Following Confrontation With Military Over Land Grab

Two men were taken into custody ‘with excessive force’ after challenging the military’s claim to farmland.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Police officers arrested two men, including one farmer, from their homes in Loikaw at around midnight on Friday following a confrontation with the military over confiscated land, according to the Karenni State Farmer Association.

Khu Tu Reh, chairperson of the Karenni State Farmer Association, identified the men as Koe Reh Soe Nyunt, a member of State Peace and Rule of Law Committee and a farmer Shar Reh, who are now in detention in Loikaw Myoma police station. They are charged with violating the Destruction of Public Property Act 6(1).

At least one of the accused had participated in a protest in Dawmukalar village on Friday, reclaiming farmland that the military had confiscated. Around 200 farmers set up a vinyl banner stating, “Don’t invade this farmland. This farmland has owners.”

Soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 250 and Artillery Battalion 356 responded by setting up their own banner, which read: “Don’t invade this land. This land is owned by the army.”

Both sides proceeded to argue. The confrontation let up once parliamentarians, township administrators, civil society representatives and respective authorities arrived at the scene.

“Koe Reh Soe Nyunt went to the place where the incident happened with a duty. He was going there to record the facts,” Khu Tu Reh told NMG, referring to one of the arrested men. Koe Reh Soe Nyunt

Later that night, Koe Reh Soe Nyunt and Shar Reh were taken into custody “with excessive force,” according to the state’s farmer association.

NMG repeatedly reached out to the Loikaw Myoma police station for comment from the officers, who only confirmed that the men were arrested over a “land dispute.”

No one is allowed to visit the two men in detention, farmer association chair Khu Tu Reh said, adding that he was concerned more people to be charged and that more charges would be added.

Tatmadaw soldiers had recently set up concrete pillars in order to make a fence around the confiscated land in Dawmukalar, however, farmers reportedly have obtained the Form (7) land ownership document for the land in question.

The farmers said that they have made repeated requests to the state government and other authorities resolve the land confiscation issue, but that no one has come to address the problem.

“This is our inherited farmland. Solders came to set up their concrete pillars on our farmland. They made a fence on our farmland. We don’t accept it,” said a farmer from Dawmukalar. “We are worried about our daily survival, and the future education for our children. If they remove their concrete pillars, we will also remove our vinyl [sign],” he explained, adding that no one from the state government had come to mediate between the two sides.

Farmers from Dawsoshay village in Demoso Township have also been engaged in a dispute over land with Artillery Battalion 360. The army has brought a court case against the farmers in question.