March 23, 2018
Two heads-of-household have been sentenced to seven months in prison under the charges of building their houses on the farmland after they refused to evict from their homes to make way for Samon Tae Airport extension project in Manaung, Rakhine State.
Speaking to Narinjara News on March 21, the family members said Manaung Township Court has given the prison sentences to U Thar Ni and U Phyu Thee Khine under Section 35 of the Farmland Law.
“Manaung Township Court sentenced our father to seven months in prison at noon today (March 21). It was under Section 35 for building a house on a farmland. We have been living on this land for over 150 years. We have been living here for many generations. [Our father] was accused of building a house on the farmland and sentenced to prison,” said Ko Thein Soe Linn, son of U Thar Ni.
The local authorities ordered U Thar Ni and U Phyu Thee Khine to evict as their homes are included under Samon Tal airport expansion project, but they continued to live on the land and refused to evict due to low compensation from the government. Manaung Township Farmland Management Committee’s secretary U Saw Shwe Maung filed charges against them in 2016.
“We are poor. We couldn’t hire a lawyer. The government has its own prosecutor. After facing the trial for nearly two years, they sentenced [our father] to prison after making a one-sided judgement,” said Ko Aung Hla Tun, son of U Phyu Thee Khine.
The families of U Phyu Thee Khine and U Thar Ni staged a protest in Manaung on March 20 to demand the authorities to drop the charges as they have been wrongfully accused of building their houses of the farmland.
A day before he was sentenced to prison, U Phyu Thee Khine told Narinjara News that he would not evict from his home.
“My house and land is worth over Ks 60 million, but I was only given Ks 700,000 for the land and Ks 5 million for the house as compensation. I can’t even buy a plot of land with this money. U Thar Ni’s house is a two-storey house. The house and the land are worth over Ks 100 million, but he was only given a small compensation. We have been sued because we refuse to leave if we don’t receive better compensation,” said U Phyu Thee Khine.