About 200 farmers in Rangoon’s Mingalardon township took to the streets to protest in the wake of a land dispute with Zaykabar Company after receiving the green light from authorities to demonstrate.
The protest follows the introduction of rules and regulations for the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law that were officially instituted last week.
The township’s authorities granted the farmer’s permission to hold a four-day procession last week – making the demonstration the first legal protest in Burma since the military coup in 1962.
The farmers from Mingalardon’s Shwenanthar village remain deadlocked in a dispute with Zaykarbar Company, which is owned by parliamentarian and business tycoon Khin Shwe, after the enterprise allegedly confiscated their land for a development project.
The group is protesting in response to a decision from the Land Committee that favoured the company.
“We are now protesting after the introduction of the [Peaceful Assembly] bylaws – today we marched to the Municipal Park from Htaukyant junction,” said Kyaw Sein, one of the farmers participating in the demonstration.
During the rally at the Municipal Park, the farmers spoke out about their woes and explained how they were allegedly tricked by Zaykabar to give up their land tenure rights.
Zaykabar issued published a veiled threat in weekly news journals warning that they would sue those who were seeking to discredit the company regarding the case with the farmers.
“We began the march at 9am [on July 15] and explained every land dispute the farmers were facing and pointed out the flaws,” said Nay Myo Wei, organiser of the protest and chairman of Peace and Diversity Party.
“Since this is the first [legal] protest – we chose to hold the protest at the location they suggested, but we are planning to move to the area around Sule Pagoda, where its crowded for the next ones.”
According to Nay Myo Wai, the organisers intitally applied for a permit that would allow 1,000 individuals to participate in the rally; however, authorities issued them a licence that would let 200 people demonstrate.
The protest is planned to take place from July 15 to 18 and will be joined by farmers from Shwenantthar, Sinpon, Thingangyunkyi, Thadukan, Hlawga, Thitpin and Htaungtalok villages.
Altogether, the farmers claim to have lost about 1,000 acres of land to Zaykabar’s development project.