Burma Army: villagers allege death threats and land grabs

The Karen National Union (KNU) in Southern Burma allege that a Burma Army commander threatened to kill villagers who met with its local officials to lodge complaints over land disputes.

Saw Eh Mu Dah, the KNU’s Ler Mu Lah Township leader in the Mergui-Tavoy District claims that a Burma Army commander intimidated villagers.

“2nd Battalion Commander Nay Pyo Win, of Infantry Battalion 401, based in Ah Le village, northeast of Myeik Town summoned villagers from Ah Le Chaung on the night of July 8 and questioned them about their meeting with us [KNU].

Saw Eh Mu Dah alleges that Commander Nay Pyo Win said that he would kill villagers if they involved the KNU in their land disputes.

“He [Commander Nay Pyo Win] questioned villagers who had asked the KNU to be involved and he warned villagers that if anyone tried to resolve the land dispute he would take the villagers to the military camp and kill them and use the [bodies] as fertilizer.”

Saw Eh Mu Dah said that the Burmese authorities and the Burma Army base in Ah Le Chaung regularly threatened villagers and KNU leaders.

Saw Eh Mu Dah claims.

“The village headman, Htun Naing and a Burma Army sergeant, Htun Naing, threatened villagers, including KNU members. At our meeting with villagers on July 8 in Ah Le Chaung, they [Burma Army] came to us armed with guns. We don’t carry guns and they [Burma Army] have banned us from wearing our military uniforms.”

The KNU reached a cease-fire with the Burmese government in 2012. Under the former military regime, villagers and the KNU allege that land grabbing was widespread and a systematic practice. Government bodies, particularly military units, seize large tracts of farmland usually without compensation.

Villagers say their land was used for the expansion of government military bases, for new government infrastructure projects and for commercial projects, either run by the military or companies with ties to the military.

A significant proportion of this land grabbing has taken place in ethnic states as well as other areas throughout Burma. Humanitarian groups say that the rise in land theft is resulting in greater displacement and dispossession among Myanmar’s rural population.

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