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Members of the All-Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) gathered in Prome, Pegu Division, on 22 May to demand amnesty for a member who was beaten and charged for participating in an unauthorised protest.
On 14 May, Kaung Htet Kyaw and a group of villagers protested in Thegon’s Aungon village to demand the return of confiscated farmlands. After the rally, the group alleges to have been assaulted by more than 60 police officers and about 100 plain-clothed thugs.
The mid-May incident was one of a long list of attempts by the villagers to reclaim 1,100 acres of land they say were confiscated by the Burmese military in 1997. After a previous event, five demonstrators were charged for defamation of the state after invoking a curse on the Burmese government.
At least four others face charges for violating Burma’s controversial Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Act.
“We demand the release of the farmers who are in detention, and that all charges against them and our member, Kaung Htet Kyaw, be dropped,” said Min Thwe Thit, secretary of the ABSFU’s central committee.
He said that the group also demanded a full investigation into the events of 14 May, and the immediate return of all wrongly acquired lands.
More than 100 people, including ABFSU members from Pegu, Irrawaddy, Sagaing, Mandalay and Rangoon divisions, joined locals in Prome for the march from the town’s landmark statue of General Aung San to the regional government’s office.
A solidarity march took place in Thegon on Thursday.
Kaung Htet Kyaw has been in hiding since police tried to arrest him in May. A local abbot negotiated his release with arresting officers and he was charged in absentia. His current whereabouts are unknown.