Karenni Farmer Arrested in Land Confiscation Case

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Police arrested a farmer in Karenni (Kayah) State’s Loikaw Township on Wednesday for attempting to destroy a fence used to demarcate landseizedby the Burma Army.

OoReh, of Myae Ni Kon in Loikaw Township, was charged with destruction of state property and is currently being heldat Loikaw Myoma police station.

“He was arrested while he was taking his children to school,”KhuTuReh, the chairman of the Karenni State Farmers Association,toldKantarawaddy Times.

In June, OoRehand other local farmers attempted to destroyconcrete pillars that were part of a fence constructed around land seized from them by Light Infantry Battalion250 and Artillery Battalion 356.The land included nearly 20 acres that had previously belonged to OoReh.

“Soldiers made a fence around the confiscated land. The farmers were afraid they would lose theirland, so they tried to remove the fence. Now they are being charged with destruction of state property. The army is misusing the law,” said a local farmer.

The arrest is the latest action taken by the authorities in a series of army-related land disputes in Karenni State.

On June 22, two men were arrested in the village of Dawmukalarfor participating in a protest to reclaim confiscated farmland. KoeRehSoeNyunt, a member of the local State Peace and Rule of Law Committee, and SharReh, a farmer, were both charged under Section 6(1) of the Public Property Protection Act.

That protest involved farmers from 11 villages in Loikaw Township, including Dawmukalar, LoiTamu, Three-Mile Pakyae, and Myae Ni Kon, and several different army battalions, including LIB 250, Infantry Battalion 261, Artillery Battalion 356, and an engineering battalion.

More recently, farmers from the village of Dawsoshayin Demoso Township have been engaged in an ongoing land dispute with Artillery Battalion360.

At a court hearing held in connection with that case on Monday, six farmers out of a group of 15 who had been charged under sections 427 and 447 of Burma’s Penal Code, which deal with destruction of public property and trespassing on public lands, were taken into custody under Section 6(1) of the Public Property Protection Act.

It is still unknown which law will be applied in OoReh’s case, but if it is the Public Property Protection Act, he will not be eligible for bail and will have to face charges behind bars.

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