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Authorities in Pyin Oo Lwin have arrested four more locals in Nyaungon village under suspicion of being involved in the ransacking of a government coffee plantation project, on land that was confiscated from village residents.
About 500 acres of farmland belonging to residents in Nyaungon village has been confiscated for the coffee plantation project since 2008. Recently, the state owned company involved in the project began selling off portions of it and villagers were so outraged by this they reportedly ransacked about 100 acres of coffee plantation on September 4.
They claim however, to only have destroyed some other trees on the land as the coffee plants are yet be planted.
However on 6 September, five villagers were arrested for ransacking the coffee plantation on 4 September. One of them was released the next morning [Sept 7] while four remained in detention.
A a result around 100 villagers protested on 7 September in Nayungon village, calling for the release of the villagers.
Government officials led by the district administration chief, arrived in the village on the same day and held a meeting with residents regarding the situation.
After the meeting, they asked four other villagers to go with them to Pyin Oo Lwin town which they agreed to, but they were instead put in a police lockup in nearby Watwun village.
Ashin Marnita, abbot of Nyaungon village monastery who sat in on the meeting with government officials told DVB;
“They just arrested four more people – they asked those people to go with them to a concerned government office [in Pyin Oo Lwin] to help settle the case faster and that they would let them go afterwards. But then they just took them directly to a police station and locked them up there.”
When the abbot telephoned the administration chief and inquired about the arrest, he was told the four were arrested because; ‘it was necessary.’
The newly arrested villagers were identified as Nay Win, Aye Ko, Thein Pe and another man. They are now in detention together at Watwun police lockup along with the other four detainees [transferred from the Pyin Oo Lwin lockup.]
Land confiscation is seemingly a growing problem for Burmese farmers as agriculture is becoming increasingly commercialised, with the entrance of foreign agri-business, primarily from China and South Korea.
Yesterday, the villagers were informed that the officials were coming to their village again to have further negotiations but they didn’t show up.
Ashin Marnita added that: “Now we are pretty helpless – forced to listen to whatever the authorities say and there is no one we could ask for help.”