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The sixth court hearing for the defamation lawsuit filed by parliamentarian Khin Shwe’s Zaykabar company against Peace and Diversity Party’s leader Nay Myo Wei convened at Rangoon’s Mingalardon township yesterday.
The Zaykabar company, which has been locked in a legal dispute with farmers in Rangoon division over the alleged confiscation of land, filed the defamation suit on 23 July against Nay Myo Wei, who has been providing the affected farmers with legal aid.
Zaykabar’s manager Myint Zaw testified in front of the court on Wednesday and accused Nay Myo Wei of making speeches and distributing leaflets deemed defamatory by the company.
“Myint Zaw said: ‘Nay Myo Wei only got involved in 2011 so he might not know if there were successful negotiations previously’ and that I said things to the farmers that was harmful to the company’s image and his,” said Nay Myo Wei during an interview with DVB.
According to Nay Myo Wei, his attorney asked Myint Zaw if the company’s confiscation of the farmers property violated the country’s existing land laws.
“He was called to submit evidence that the company didn’t violate the 1953 Land Nationalisation Act and he said it was not possible for now,” said Nay Myo Wei.
The next court hearing has been set for 14 November.
Last year, Zaykabar appropriated 800 acres of land from locals in Hlaingtharyar township to make way for an industrial project. The company offered farmers 300,000 Kyat in compensation per acre.
After receiving several complaints from the farmers, state authorities told the company to suspend their project, but the orders were ignored.
With Burma primed for massive investment following the continual removal of western sanctions, land grabs have been on the rise amid the country’s shaky legal infrastructure that experts say allows for forced relocation to continue.
Currently, most farmers are ostensibly tenants on their land, and are forced to share a portion of revenue with the government. Since the scandal arose, the farmers have lost their tenant status.
However, local farmers are feeling increasingly empowered in the absence of military rule to stand up against development projects that threaten to forcibly remove them off their land.
In July, about 200 farmers took to the streets in Rangoon to protest against the Zaykabar Company’s alleged confiscation of their land after receiving the green light from authorities to rally, in what was the first legal demonstration in Burma since the military coup in 1962.