A Burma Army officer has opened a criminal case against four villagers and a headman in southern Shan State’s Hsihseng Township, alleging that they destroyed a fence being constructed by the military on seized farmland.
The fence in question was built on March 6 on the road near Kawng Tayoe village in Nawng Kyaw village tract.
On March 9, four headmen from the villages of Nawng Kyaw, Pin Sone, Mya Kantha and Aung Chan Tha went to see the fence, after hearing that it was becoming difficult for villagers to travel on the road.
“The army came to build a fence on the road that villagers usually use. When we went to observe the fence, we saw major-ranking officers from LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 423 and LIB 424. They told us they were doing it under the order of the commander of the eastern military command,” San Win Maung, the headman of Aung Chan Tha, told SHAN.
The area in question was confiscated in 1996 by the Strategic Command 1 operating under the Eastern Military Command.
Maj Naing Kyaw Zin from LIB 424 filed charges against a village headman and a villager for violating multiple articles of the Penal Code—353, 429 and 447, which include allegations of disturbing official duties and destruction of property. It was alleged that the villagers destroyed the fence.
“Villagers removed a little bit of the fence,” headman San Win Maung said. “[The military] extended the road to be 10 feet wide for better traveling. But they didn’t destroy the fence. That’s why the villagers piled all of the wood [from the fence] nearby the road.”
Police from Hsihseng informed San Win Maung and Cho Cho Win, who is helping the farmers, of the charges on the morning of March 13.
“They told us that the army has opened a file on the farmers. Then I went to observe the army’s fence on the same day. We went to see villagers. I don’t understand why army is prosecuting,” Cho Cho Win told SHAN.
Cho Cho Win and San Win Maung added that they will face the case in court.
“We haven’t done anything wrong. We don’t need to negotiate with anybody. We will face the case in court. We will tell the truth,” San Win Maung said. “I am a village headman. As a dutiful man, I went to observe the situation there. The army has prosecuted me. If they had seen the villagers, they would sue the villagers for sure. I could not have imagined it. It’s unfair.”
Since the military seized the land plots in 1996, they haven’t implemented any projects on the confiscated land, villagers said.