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Villagers in Naypyidaw’s Lewe township who protested a relocation order have been sentenced to hard labour.
Residents in Lewe township’s Meethwaybogon village were given notice by Naypyidaw’s Development Committee to relocate because the community was located within a government project zone.
Attorney San San Myint said six Meethwaybogon villagers last week were sentenced to three months hard labour for trespassing, while eight villagers will stand trial soon.
“Four were sentenced on 14 March and then two more on 16 [March]. Eight people are facing the same charge,” said San San Myint
Daw Aye Mu, a widow and mother of two, was among the group of villagers that was sentenced.
“Her neighbours have to feed [her] children,” said San San Myint. “They don’t have their houses anymore too – they are living in these small makeshift huts under trees on the side of the road since they’re houses have been brought down.”
Municipal authorities promised the community land and 200,000 Kyat to assist in relocation. However, only 50 residents were provided with compensation, which resulted in the community rejecting the order.
After being threatened with lawsuit, a majority of the residents vacated the land, while about 20 households stood their ground. The Naypyidaw Development Committee then filed suit against the remaining residents on February 10.
San San Myint said the villagers were receiving legal consul from Khin Maung Gyi, who is hoping to file an appeal on behalf of his imprisoned clients.
“Since the sentence is only three month, their [sentence may expire], while the appeal is being processed,” said San San Myint. “However, we want to make clear who’s on the right side in this case and also want concerned senior authorities to learn about this.”
Forced evictions are common in Burma, especially when the land at stake is home to resources.