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Three farmers were injured in Pegu on Friday when police broke up a protest site where about 100 locals from the town of Thegon had been demanding the return of their farmland which they say was confiscated by the army.
More than 100 farmers from Thegon’s Aungon village had been occupying a vacant lot in the centre of the town since 10 February, calling for the return of over 1,100 acres of farmland they claim was confiscated by the Burmese armed forces in 2000.
At around 7am on Friday, some 60 policemen accompanied by over 100 citizens raided the camp, beating up protestors and dragging them into trucks before driving them back to their village.
Thant Zin Htet, an activist helping the farmers, said many eye witnesses were shocked by the crackdown. Three protestors were reported injured – two of whom, both women, were hospitalised.
“Around 60 policemen, led by township and district police superintendents, raided the camp this morning,” said Thant Zin Htet, speaking to DVB on Friday.
“Two women were hospitalised – one of them was hit by a rock the police threw, and the other lost pretty much all her clothing in the scuffle and was seriously traumatised.”
The Prome (Pyay) District Police, under whose jurisdiction Thegon falls, said authorities went to the protest site on Friday morning to “implore” the protestors to suspend the rally and make way for a dharma speech by the renowned Buddhist monk Sitagu that was scheduled for the same location.
“Local authorities implored the protestors to suspend their rally temporarily to make way for the Dharma Talk event,” said an officer at the District Police Station.
The Aungon villagers have vowed to resume the protest and continue demonstrating until they get their land back.
“We are still standing by our original demands – the return of our confiscated land,” said Pauk Sa, a protest leader. “We also demand mediation for various land disputes and compensation for the farmers for their losses.”
Thant Zin Htet and Pauk Sa, and two other protestors, Daw Nyo and Daw Win, have been charged by police under Article 18 of the Penal Code – the notorious Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law – for organising a public rally without official permission.