Seven farmers from Kanbalu in Sagaing Division, jailed for staging plough protests on confiscated land, were released from prison on Wednesday after serving their full three-month sentences.
But while seven walked free from Shwebo Prison, dozens remain behind bars. A total of 57 [some reports say 56] protestors were originally charged under various crimes including trespassing and vandalism. The farmers were arrested for conducting a plough protest earlier this year, an increasingly popular form of non-violent protest whereby farmers attempt to till or cultivate lands which they claim were seized from them, mostly by the military during the 1990s.
Of the 57 jailed for the March protests in Kanbalu, some received three-month sentences while others were handed two-year jail terms. At least 20 were transferred to prisons far from their homes.
“Seven farmers from the group of 56 jailed in July have been released from Shwebo Prison,” said supporter Than Htike from Hkaohnta village. “Some of the defendants are still serving terms for additional charges.”
Another supporter of the plough protestors, who asked not to be named, said that more than 200 local villagers and supporters are facing charges on similar grounds.
“In total, 226 villagers from the region – including Yemaw, Htantabin, Bugone, Htaukyaai, Pyegyi, Hkaohnta and Ngatpyawdine villages – are facing trials for staging plough protests and demanding the government intervene in their land disputes ahead of growing season,” she said.
Some 173 villagers from Hkaohnta are scheduled to appear at a court hearing on 28 October for trespassing and vandalism charges, she said.
Over 10,000 acres of land in Kanbalu were allegedly confiscated by the Burmese military in 1991.