A farmer in Shan State’s Taunggyi, who suffered massive burns after setting himself alight on Thursday in protest of the seizure of his farmland by the military, has died.
Myint Aung, 63, a resident of the village of Yepu, doused himself in gasoline and self-immolated after being told by an official, along with other villagers, that a residential project was planned for land that had been seized from farmers two decades ago.
The Burmese military’s Eastern Regional Military Command (RMC) seized over 5,000 acres of farmland from the villages of Yepu, Kyaukni and Kunlon for an agricultural project, though the original land owners had been permitted to work the land as tenant farmers.
On 20 May, the RMC’s agriculture project coordinator Cpt. Win Tun Aung told the villagers that a plan had been drawn up to construct housing on the farm plots, leading to an altercation.
It was shortly after the incident that Myint Aung returned home, and left a note before setting himself alight. He was taken to Sao San Tun hospital.
In the note, Myint Aung demanded a return of confiscated farmland and expressed anger at the village administration and land officials, who he accused of corruption and chastised for denying the villagers’ original claim of ownership of the land.
The National League for Democracy’s Taunggyi District chairman Tin Maung Toe told DVB that Myint Aung had sustained third degree burns over 86 percent of his body.
“U Myint Aung was running around in the street covered in flames – his nieces at home saw that but didn’t realise it was him until other villagers gathered round and put out the fire,” said Tin Maung Toe.
“According to the doctor, he suffered burn injuries on 86 percent of his body. I also went to see him – his legs were the pretty much the only parts of his body left not burned,” he added.
Since President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government came into power in 2011, protests against land grab cases have been common. The frequency of these demonstrations highlights the prevalent problem of extensive land grabs by the government during the decades of military rule.