Naw Dway Eh Khu
On August 14, the State High Court has acquitted the appeal by the Artillery Battalion-356 and Infantry Battalion-250 seeking harser punishment against the farmers from Loikaw Township who were sentenced to imprisonment or fined for trespassing of military-owned farmland.
Saw Khu Talay, a lawyer representing the farmers, told to the medias after the hearing, “The judge of State High Court dismissed all the cases with such reviews, saying that the case should not continue if the sections have no difference and unjustice from the view of court who reviews the hearing. So the sentence made by first court is fair.”
The army officers from two battalions have sued 21 farmers, including three members of the Karenni State Farmers Union (KSFU), for allegedly violating the invasions of land confiscated by the military, destroying stone pillars for fencing, performing obscene act, deterring public servants from discharging their duties.
Under the Section 6(1) of the Penal Code, which can be sentenced a maximum seven years in prison, the farmers were sentenced 6 months in prison or a fine of 20,000 kyat, and fined 20,000 kyat for section 447 or 15 days in prison and fined 20,000 kyat for the other lawsuits. And the case was dismissed in early March upon completing of their (farmers) prison terms and paying fine after being sued.
U Oo Reh added that concerns had been alleviated after hearing the State High Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.
“Everyone was worried. As we are farmers, we make our living only with the farming. When the case happened like this, it was very stressful. I don’t feel confort anymore even if I work to earn money at neighbor farms. Now very thankful for the dismissal. The stress and concerns also completely alleviated,” he said.
The 356 artillery battalions and 250 infantry battalions, which stationed in Loikaw Township in the 1990s, confiscated the farmlands to build a military base at Daw Mu Klar, Myay Ni Gone, and 3-Mile Pa Kyel.
The locals have been cultivating on the remaining land outside confiscated area every year. However, in 2019, the army did not allow the farmers to continue farming on the farmland anymore. The construction of a fence posts and sign posts on land confiscated by the military has led to land disputes with local farmers and lawsuits against farmers’ activists.
Covering to the extent of whole state, the government said there are 14,776.01 acres of land confiscated by the Tatmadaw, and 4,111.66 acres have been relinquished in accordance with the policy.