Pekon Farmers Harvest Crops Amid Burma Army Offensive

By Kantarawaddy Times

Farmers are risking their lives cultivating their paddy fields at night amid a major offensive by the Burmese Army in southern Shan State. The farmers Pekon Township say they’ve little choice to travel to their farms in the evening to avoid starvation later in the year. But they’re taking a big risk in doing so after the military set up checkpoints on all major roads, stopping everyone they see along the Shan-Karenni border.

“We’re just farmers and have no other business. We’ve got to do this even if we’re terrified of the military,” a man from Moebye town told Kantarawaddy Times. If we miss this harvest, it could take three years to recover our losses, he explained. More than two-thirds of Moebye’s population derive all their income from agriculture and have invested a lot of money in labour, seeds, fertiliser, fuel and equipment.

Last Sunday, soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 422 arrested eight farmers in the morning. Six of them were released at 4pm that day. According to one of the released farmers, the soldiers checked their Facebook on their phones and asked for their addresses.

“We’ve no information about the other two or why they were even arrested,” said Lt Yahtar of the People’s Defence Forces (PDF) in Moebye. The civilian resistance group took up arms against the junta a few months after the military’s coup on 1 February.

On Monday, the army arrested 20 people from the area and released all but 7, according to the PDF. The civilian armed group warned people travelling to their farms to be careful because the military is arbitrarily arresting civilians.

On 29 October, LIB 422 shelled the town of Moebye and its surroundings with artillery, killing a man and a woman and injuring three others in a farm.