Civil Society: Legal Action Against Karenni Farmers Will Negatively Affect Peace Process

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‘I repeatedly reported it to respective government and authorities. Nobody took action. Nobody took care of it,’ a Karenni State MP says.

By KANTARAWADDY TIMES

The Burma Army’s charges against farmers over land confiscation issues will impact the country’s peace process, Karenni State-based civil society organizations (CSOs) said in a statement released this week.Local farmers and the military have had confrontations over land ownership in Dawsoshay village in Demoso Township and Dawmukalar village in Loikaw Township.

Farmers have tried to tend to fields that the Burma Army seized, and have demanded the land be returned to the communities.

The CSOs said in their July 4 statement that police have arrested farmers from their homes at night, and highlighted how the military is prosecuting them through the court system.

“Regarding these land issues, I repeatedly reported it to respective government and authorities. Nobody took action. Nobody took care of it,” state parliamentarian Thae Reh told Kantarawaddy Times.

“If the situation continues in this way, our people will suffer a lot. There will be a problem between the army and farmers. How will [the military] negotiate with the KNPP [Karennni National Progressive Party]? It will be very bad if it impacts the peace process.”

Civil society in Karenni State argued that the military’s actions are not in line with democratic values.”Nobody is above the law… there is a group of people who are doing whatever they want,” Eh Say, who works with the Kayah Earthrights Action Network, said.

“Farmers are oppressed. Farmers try to work on their land. But the army has confiscated the land of farmers. It means army has confiscated not only farmland but also destroyed the lives of farmers.”

Thursday’s statement also highlighted the government’s Vacant, Fallow and Virgin (VFV) land law as threatening ethnic communities’ customary land management practices.

“From the perspective of human rights, indigenous people are losing their rights. From perspective of politics, indigenous people are losing historical rights,” Tu Reh, chairperson of the Karenni State Farmers Union, told Kantarawaddy Times.

The Burma Army’s Artillery Battalion 360 confiscated farmland in Dawsoshay. Artillery Battalion 360, Infantry Battalion 261, Light Infantry Battalion 250, and an engineering battalion confiscated farmland from 11 villages including Dawmukalar.

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