Villagers detained following police arson attack

Dec 21, 2007 (DVB), Villagers from Kalay Township in Sagaing division have called for the release of people detained in February following a clash with police after officials set fire to an oil purifying workshop.

The villagers wrote a letter of complaint to the minister of home affairs, general Maung Oo, informing him about the case and requesting that the 24 villagers be released and charges brought against district police chief U Win Khine.

At the beginning of this year, a private company called Moe Taung Tan reportedly gave bribes to district police chief U Win Khine and other police officers and asked them to arrest local villagers who were stealing oil.

On 23 February, the police officers went with a group of other officials, including Myauk Se deputy police chief Hla Naing, officers Maung Win and Aung Naing Lin, and volunteer firefighters, to Ashay Se village and burned down an oil purifying workshop owned by local villager Myint Htay.

The villagers were aware that the site was used for oil purifying and, worried that it was highly flammable, came to try to put out the fire.

But the police stopped them putting it out, sparking a clash between villagers and officials which led to injuries on both sides.

Among the casualties was police sergeant Maung Win, who was admitted to Mandalay hospital with severe injuries and later died.

In retaliation, the district police chief arrested 24 villagers who were involved in the incident and put them in Kalay prison where they have reportedly been tortured, according to other villagers.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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