Arakanese farmers from Kyauktaw in Arakan State said a Burmese army battalion based in their area has been forcibly grabbing their paddies that are about to be harvested from their fields.
“It was like coming to attack the rebel base. 20 soldiers of the LIB-539 pointing their guns marched to our paddy fields. They threatened to shoot us if we did not come out from our fields within their timing of counting 1 to 10. So, we had to flee abandoning our fields. And then they harvested the paddies from our fields and took them to their regiment”, said a farmer from Prein Chaung Village in Kyauktaw Township.
The farmer requested Narinjara not to mention his name as the army may arrest and beat him for reporting the matter to the media.
The soldiers of the LIB-539 based in Kyauktaw are said to have been reaping all ripe paddies being cultivated on 120 acres of fields by 28 farmers from Prein Chaung and other nearby villages after seizing the fields with their armed soldiers claiming that those cultivated lands are owned by their battalion.
“The soldiers have been harvesting our paddies starting on Sunday (11th of November) and are still continuing today as well. 50 of them—20 males and 30 females—reap the paddies while another 20 of them with arms guard the fields. They are led by the Lieutenant Ba Nyar Win. The Tatmadaw (army) usually says they are guarding the lives and properties of the people. We don’t understand why they are being so cruel to us now”, said the farmer.
The soldiers are also said to have driven away the farmers from the nearby fields and have taken away their paddy sheaves that were being kept in their field tents by farm-vehicles to their battalion.
When contacted by Narinjara, U Saw Nyein, a lawmaker of the state parliament from Kyauktaw, also confirmed that it is true the army has been harvesting the paddies from local farmers’ fields.
“Those farmlands are not connected with the army. The farmers have made those farms for continuing their livelihoods by clearing jungles, hills and valleys since 600 acres of their farmlands were confiscated by the army for building the LIB-539 there. The farmers have cultivated those lands as the responsible township administrator has permitted them to do so for their livelihoods. Now that the paddies have become ripe in the farms, the army have come and confiscated the paddies claiming that those lands are theirs”,said U Saw Nyein.
He added that the farmers are now badly hurt as the paddies they have cultivated with their investments of labors and moneys have been forcibly harvested by the army.
The farmers in the region have been suffering from severe poverty as the Burmese army has forcibly confiscated most of their farms over past two decades and has been perpetuating widespread oppression and rights violations upon them.