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Police break up farmers’ protest camp in Mandalay

Police clear farmers out of their protest site on 62nd Street in central Mandalay in the wee hours of 28 July 2017. (PHOTO: Provided to DVB)

Police forcibly broke up a sit-in last night, when they cleared farmers, who were protesting land grabs, from a site in central Mandalay.

The farmers had been occupying the protest site at 62nd Street, near the southeast corner of the city’s historical moat, for over three weeks, demanding justice for those affected by land seizures in the Mandalay region and denouncing lawsuits that have been levelled at farmers who disputed the land grabs.

“At 2am, our protest camp was raided and broken up by police,” said farmers’ leader Maung Soe. “Fellow protest leader U Soe Lwin and I have been charged and granted bail. The other protestors were told by police to return to their villages.”

He said that aggrieved farmers and landowners from areas such as Madaya, Pathein Gyi, Singaing, Pyin Oo Lwin, Myintha and Ngazun had been protesting in central Mandalay since 6 July.

“We demand the withdrawal of all charges against the farmers,” Maung Soe told DVB. “And we are demanding that all matters related to seized farmlands are dealt with in a just manner.”

Protest leaders held a meeting with Mandalay authorities on 16-17 July, when officials tried to persuade the farmers to call off the sit-in. Maung Soe said he assumes the site was forcibly cleared of demonstrators last night because they refused to cave in to officials’ demands.

More than 100 farmers have been charged for trespassing, mischief or even sedition in cases in the Mandalay region relating to land confiscations. Meanwhile, around another 100 land dispute cases remain unresolved, according to the farmers.

When Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) stormed to power in elections in November 2015, its victory was fuelled in part by rural anger over land seizures by the Burmese military and the party’s pledge to provide redress.

February 2017: 350 Mandalay farmers facing court over land grabs