Yangon chief minister meets farmers after bloody clash with police

By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER

YANGON – Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein has met several farmers evicted from disputed land on Saturday after a bloody confrontation with police in Kyauktan Township during which two people were shot.

The chief minister met four farmers, local lawmakers, and representatives of the township, district and region land management committees at his office in Ahlone Township yesterday morning to discuss the dispute with military company Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.

Yangon Region Hluttaw U Zaw Moe Lwin (National League for Democracy, Kyauktan-1) said the chief minister had promised to solve the land dispute promptly. Phyo Min Thein said during that meeting that if the farmers needed to be compensated it should be paid at the market rate.

“He ordered the township and district land management committees that investigate these issues to look into it tomorrow and send a report to his office immediately,” Zaw Moe Lwin said.

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The meeting came after Kyauktan police violently evicted farmers and workers from land near the Thilawa Special Economic Zone. Officers fired four shots during the confrontation, including three into a crowd. Two people, Daw Moh Moh Lwin and U Aung Naing Soe, were shot and are receiving treatment at Thanlyin Township Hospital.

The confrontation received relatively little media coverage because it coincided with several other major news events, including attacks by ethnic armed groups in Muse, northern Shan State, and a peace protest in Yangon.

The police also arrested three people on Saturday and charged them with abetting and voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. All three were released on bail on Sunday evening.

One of those arrested, U Than Win, said he wasn’t sure when the case would come to court. “We lost our rights again and again, but nobody is taking responsibility for it,” he said.

Than Win attended the meeting with Phyo Min Thein and said he was disappointed the chief minister dodged questions on the police’s heavy-handed tactics.

“The chief minister never discussed who would take responsibility for the crackdown against the farmers,” he said.

The land dispute has a complex history. In 1996, Myanma Port Authority forcibly acquired 80 acres of the land from 14 farmers and paid them compensation of K20,000 an acre.

However, the following year 10 farmers, including three of those who had received compensation, began re-cultivating the land. After the port authority decided not to develop the site, the military government issued land-use certificates, known as La Na 39, to the farmers in 2000.

It is unclear when MEHL acquired the land, but in 2017 it paid compensation of K7 million per acre to farmers. However, three of them, including Than Win, have refused the compensation, saying the prices offered is too low.

Prior to Saturday there were nearly 40 households living on the site, including nine of the farmers who received the land use certificates in 2000.

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