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A court hearing for more than 170 farmers from Kanbalu Township, who were charged for conducting plough protests on seized lands, has been postponed.
More than 50 have already received prison sentences, and their fellow defendants petitioned the Sagaing Division court on Friday that those jailed should be allowed to attend the court hearing too, said lawyer Zarni Aung.
“The farmers who were charged presented a letter to the court requesting that those already sentenced be included in the hearing,” he said. “The judge ordered that the hearing be postponed until 26 August. In the meantime, the judge must consult the other lawyers to decide whether to permit the jailed farmers to be brought back to court.”
Aung Myint, a community leader who is actively assisting the Kanbalu villagers involved, said, “There must be rule of law in Burma. Currently Burma has no rule of law. The military, police and private companies join hands to suppress opposition from ordinary folk, just as a village headman would. Burma cannot be called a nation – it is a village.”
On Wednesday, some 1,500 protestors rallied for the release of the 57 farmers jailed in March for their involvement in plough protests, a recently popular form of dissent by farmers wishing to publicise their plight in trying to regain control over land which was seized from them by the military, mostly in the 1990s.
Of those 170-plus farmers charged for the March protest, 57 have already been convicted, of whom at least 20 have been transferred to prisons far from their homes and families.
Villagers said that thousands acres of land were seized in Kanbalu in 1997, and the regime later hired tenant farmers to cultivate sugar cane.