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Five villagers from Pyin Oo Lwin have been charged following a clash between local protestors and soldiers from the Engineering Battalion over a land dispute.
According to one of the indicted men, U Myo, he and four others from Kandawmin village were summoned by police on 1 February and charged under Penal Code articles 294 and 332 – for obscenity, and deterring civil servants from their duties, respectively.
“We were summoned by the Pyin Oo Lwin police deputy chief Min Aung to the village administration office and informed that we were being charged for obscenity and for disturbing officials on duty. It was in connection with a scuffle on 27 January. We were then asked whether we would like to plead guilty or not guilty,” said U Myo.
“We told him that we did not curse at nor disturb the soldiers – that we did not even go to the area where they were installing an iron gate, but that we only stayed at our spot, imploring them to stop. They attacked us first,” he said.
No date has yet been given for arraignment, he added.
The village of Kandawmin is located on land owned by the military and is home to around 200 families who have been living there as tenants for nearly two decades. The dispute began in 2013 when the army ordered the villagers to move out. They refused, insisting that the military should instead give up the land.
On 27 January, several villagers and soldiers were reportedly injured when they clashed after a truckload of troops from the local Engineering Battalion arrived to erect a fence around the land. One villager sustained head injuries and is currently receiving treatment in Mandalay Hospital’s emergency unit.
Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo, is a scenic town some 50 kilometres east of Mandalay in central Burma, in the foothills of the Shan highlands. It was named after a British colonel, James May, who was stationed there in 1886 and who established the hill station as the British colonial administration’s summer retreat.
The town is best known today as the centre of the country’s Defence Services Academy.