Five farmers facing prosecution by military owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH) and Htoo Trading Company were given lengthy prison terms by a court in Upper Minhla township last Thursday.
Than Oo, Htun Min Lwin, Aung Lin, Khin Maung San and Kyaw Nyunt of Sisayan village, Magwe division’s Kanma township, were given prison terms ranging from eight to 12 years for several convictions including stoning, cursing, damaging property, trespassing and violation of export/import law.
The dispute started in January when the UMEH and Htoo companies seized farmlands owned by the five to build a caustic soda factory. An initial lawsuit filed by the five was rejected by Kanma township’s court in upper Burma.
Subsequently, the UMEH countersued the five men, alleging they themselves are guilty of physical and verbal assault, and trespassing on the land confiscated from them.
Than Oo was also beaten up by the companies’ workers, and his prosecution case against the assailants, for injuring and cursing, was ‘closed as a mistake’ in a trial in May, as rampant corruption allows state-backed enterprises to exploit legal loopholes.
The farmers’ legal representative Kyaw Htay said he is preparing to go for ‘steps of appeals’ through higher courts.