Rathidaung: The lawsuit against 45 farmers, filed by the army, for alleged trespassing on their own farmlands in Rathidaung in Arakan State will be examined by the court again this month.
There are said to be two groups of farmers in the lawsuit filed by the army—a group comprising of 26 farmers sued on the 12th of January 2012 and another group comprising of 19 farmers sued on the 7th of September 2012.
The farmers are from Paungzar, Naypukhan, Kyaunchaung and Poeryprun villages all situated on the bank of the Mayu River in Rathidaung Township. In the first case 26 of farmers were sued by U Saw Aung Thein, a businessman who is a close associate of the Burmese Army,
on charges of group trespassing and damaging lands that had been forcibly confiscated by the army from them.
In the second case, another 19 farmers were also sued by the same businessman U Aung Saw Thein and U Tun Win, the in-charge of the Laungchaung Police Station, as the farmers cleared the farmlands and grazing lands forcibly confiscated by the army after they received a promise from the State Chief Minister that they would be redistributed back to the farmers.
“The first group will be seen on the 21st of September while the second group will be seen on the 19th of September. They will be examined in Rathidaung Township Court concerning with their respective lawsuits”, said U Hla Maung Thein, a lawmaker of the State Parliament from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party in Rathidaung.
There are 744.77 acres of arable lands confiscated from local farmers according to the army’s statistics, but the businessman U Saw Aung Thein who had contracts for the lands from the army has now occupied over 1,800 acres of land owned by farmers in the township.
“When we submitted the matter of land confiscation to the parliament, the Union Minister Second General Hla Min replied that there are altogether 744.77 acres of arable lands confiscated by the army in our township. But we have found out that over 1,800 acres of lands have been confiscated and the Chief Minister of our state has promised us that these extra lands that were not included in the army’s
confiscation would be distributed back to the farmers. So, the farmers started to clear those extra lands for cultivation and then U Saw Thein Aung filed a lawsuit against the farmers on charges of illegally trespassing on the land”, explained U Hla Maung Thein.
A local lawyer who is providing legal assistance to the farmers said hearing the lawsuits without investigating the lands the farmers have cleared for their cultivation illustrates the laxity of the court that supports the oppression of the army and businessmen upon needy farmers.
“The 26 farmers who are being indicted in the first lawsuit filed by the army backed local businessman U Soe Thein Aung and the in-charge of the Laungchaung Police Station are already in great trouble. It is like the court is also supporting the oppression of army and businessman of the innocent and needy farmers because it still backs away from investigating if the lands they cleared for cultivation are part of the army’s confiscated lands or the extra lands”, said the lawyer.
He also said it has been already eight months since the lawsuit was filed with the court, but the court is still unable to hand down a final ruling, wasting both the time and money of those 26 farmers.
Similarly, 11 farmers from Balipauk also known as Palaepauk Village were sued by the Military Operation Command (9) based in Kyauktaw on the 28th of June 2012 for cultivating arable lands confiscated by the command.