By MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER
YANGON — Thirty-seven farmers in Ayeyarwady Region are facing the possibility of prison time after the son of a retired military officer accused them of cutting bamboo on his land.
Police in Kangyidaunt Township accepted the complaint on January 16 but have not yet been able to interview all of the accused, despite issuing subpoenas.
The farmers, from Nan Nwin Grat village, are facing two potential charges: mischief, which carries a maximum prison term of two years, and trespassing, which can result in a prison term of up to three months.
One of the accused, Daw Shwe Tin, 41, told Frontier that she was still trying to make arrangements for all of the farmers to come to the police station. She said they are expected to present for an interview on Friday. “It’s difficult to organise for all 37 people to come on the same day,” she said.
Police Lieutenant Thein Lwin from Kangyidaunt police station confirmed officers were investigating the complaint and expected to speak to the farmers on Friday.
The complainant, U Zay Zay Aung, is the son of Captain (retired) Thein Win. The officer acquired the land – more than 60 acres in all – in 1991-92, Shwe Tin said.
The alleged trespassing comes amid a dispute between Zay Zay Aung and the villagers over ownership of the land.
Under the U Thein Sein government, the confiscated land was split into four parts, three of which were returned to the farmers as community land. Zay Zay Aung kept the final parcel.
However, both sides were upset at the decision and claimed ownership of all four plots. Until a settlement could be reached, both sides agreed not to enter the land and the township administration office put up a sign banning the cutting of bamboo, according to U Aung Kyaing, the village-tract administrator for Nan Nwin Grat.
He said both sides are at fault in the dispute. “The residents shouldn’t have gone and cut the bamboo where it is prohibited to do so and U Zay Zay Aung shouldn’t sue people as well. It should end with negotiation,” Aung Kyaing said.
Shwe Tin said that in 1991 senior military officers confiscated land at 16 locations in Kangyidaunt Township, including Nan Nwin Grat, in order to establish cashew plantations.
But the plantation projects were unsuccessful and instead the land was used as bamboo plantations, she said, adding that the bamboo is used to make mats and furniture.