World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


BURMA/MYANMAR: Courts, cops, cronies driving farmers to ruin

For Immediate Release
AHRC-STM-086-2014
May 13, 2014
A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

BURMA/MYANMAR: Courts, cops, cronies—the Three C's driving farmers to ruin, and jail

The frenzy of land grabbing in Burma (Myanmar) amid the country's transition to nominally democratic government shows no signs of abating.

Reports of the number of cases and scale of "land confiscation"—a euphemism for theft by government authorities and army-linked cronies—continue to grow. At the same time, conflicts over land have escalated as farmers attempt to regain land taken from them in earlier years.

A consistent feature across these reports is the role that the courts and police have played in support of cronies and military interests.

The most recent case in which the regressive and anti-democratic role of the courts and cops was openly on display occurred last week in Pegu (Bago) Region, when a court heard a case against five farmers accused of upsetting public tranquillity for demonstrating publicly over the loss of more than a thousand acres of farmland in 1997, to Infantry Battalion 80, based at Inma, and a crony, U HtainHtain, alias Hla Moe.

The farmers in Thegon Township began protesting publicly in February 2014 after having sent over 60 complaint letters to some 24 government department and agencies, without getting any satisfactory response.

In February, four of them—Ko Thant ZinHtet, Daw Win, Daw Nyo and KoPauk Sa—were arrested and charged under section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Demonstration Law for protesting without a licence. In the course of making the arrests, police assaulted a number of demonstrators, and two women were hospitalised.

As the Asian Human Rights Commission has written previously, this law does exactly the opposite of what it claims to do: rather than enabling people to gather and express their views freely and democratically, it criminalises people for organising public rallies without having first obtained permission from the authorities, who can approve or deny the holding of such events arbitrarily. Hence, anti-Muslim fanatics get permits to rally, while farmers fighting against the army and army-backed interests do not.

Unbowed, the farmers on April 23 engaged in another act of public protest, this time burning a number of coffins bearing the names of the crony, military and government authorities responsible for denying them return of the stolen farmlands. Thereafter, on May 2 the police lodged another case against five farmers—KoPauk Sa, KoKyaw Thu, Daw Nyo, Daw Mone and Ko Thant ZinHtet—under section 505(b) of the Penal Code, for allegedly upsetting the public tranquility with their coffin-burning ritual. The Thegon Township Court set May 6 as the date for a hearing.

On the date of the hearing, the court ordered PaukSa be taken into custody rather than released on bail. The police took him from the courthouse in handcuffs. At the entrance to the Paungde Jail, an argument broke out between assembled farmers and police as the latter tried to take PaukSa inside, and around 50 police were called to cordon off ten farmers. A police officer also assaulted a journalist present.

The Thegon case, like others of its type, is illustrative of the extent to which the authorities and political and economic interests in Burma continue to operate according to military-arranged networks, embedded over half a century of dictatorial, repressive rule. The police and courts are to this dayalmost exclusively responsive to the demands and needs of the army and cronies with which it has connections. To the extent that farmers and other members of the public succeed in getting back land or obtaining satisfaction in relation to other demands, it is only where and when those established military and business interests acquiesce to them. Where the army or people with whom it has close relations decline to accommodate public demands, farmers like those in Thegon get nothing, and other parts of the state apparatus do nothing.

The networking of military and business interests into the current nominally democratic period is particularly damaging and dangerous not for the cronies or soldiers, who continue to rake in unknown amounts of illicitly obtained gains, or even the cops and courts who are at their beck and call, but for those innovative institutions to which people are looking for redress. These nascent democratic agencies—which include the various committees and commissions established to investigate and secure the return of lands, and also the rule of law committee headed by Aung San SuuKyi—are increasingly being shown up as hollow, meaningless and pathetic bodies.

These committees are among those inundated with complaints of the sort sent by the farmers from Thegon; complaints for which members of the public very rarely receive any reply, and even less often, any evidence of redress. Of course, the committee members are right to complain (privately) that they have neither the authority nor resources to carry out their mandates: they do not. But the farmers in Thegon and thousands of other places around the country from which similar complaints have emanated over the last few years do not get this message. The message they get is that no matter how much they raise their voices through official channels, they get nothing but silence in reply.

Therefore, the only means they have to obtain some kind of response from the state authorities is to take to the streets, and meet with the cops and courts that do the cronies' bidding. In so doing, they gain confidence in their own abilities to rally and fight for what they believe in, but they also lose confidence in the ability of any of those nominally democratic institutions to do anything for them. Above all, they lose confidence in legal institutions at precisely the time that these agencies ought to be a part of the movement for political and legal reform in Burma, not obstacles to it.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

West Papua: “Lest We Forget”

AS Anzac approaches and Australians and New Zealanders remember those who fought and lost their lives on Anzac Day, it is hoped we will also remember the unfree people of the Pacific region and in particular those who are still suffering from human ... More>>

Iran: 81 Executions In One Week

Coincident with mass executions in the prisons of Ghezel-Hessar, Karaj and other cities, the anti-human regime of mullahs sent 16 other prisoners to the gallows in Mashhad and Birjand (northeastern Iran). Twelve of them were hanged collectively ... More>>

Al-Shabaab: Four Unicef Staff Killed In Somalia

Four UNICEF staff members have been killed in an attack on their vehicle in Garowe, Somalia. Four other UNICEF colleagues are in a serious condition. The IED (improvised explosive device) attack occurred when the staff were travelling from their guest ... More>>

UN: Suicide Attack In Jalalabad Condemned

NEW YORK/KABUL/GENEVA (18April 2015) – “I strongly condemn the brutal suicide attack that coincided with my visit to Jalalabad today,” said United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović during his visit to Afghanistan. ... More>>

Save The Children: STC Urges EU Leaders To Act To Prevent More Mass Drownings

Save the Children Urges EU Leaders to Act to Prevent More Mass Drownings at Sea. More>>

ALSO:

Japan: Independent Experts Slam Japan’s New Whaling Plan

Independent experts slam Japan’s new whaling plan and declare no more whales need to be killed for Antarctic research More>>

Gaza Strip: Attacks In The Border Areas

Following disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, Israel unilaterally and illegally established a so-called “buffer zone”, an area prohibited to Palestinians along the land and sea borders of the Gaza Strip. The precise area designated by ... More>>

Australian Government: Iraq Deployment: Joint Press Conference, Canberra

Back in March, the Government announced that we were preparing a force for a Building Partner Capacity training mission in Iraq. I can inform you that today the Cabinet has decided to deploy that force. The deployment will start tomorrow and we expect ... More>>

UNHRC: UN Committee Against Torture To Review New Zealand

UN Committee against torture to review New Zealand, Congo, Romania, Luxembourg, Spain, Serbia, Colombia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia More>>

UNHRC: Nigeria: One Year On, Call To Bring Back Abducted Children

Nigeria: One year on, UN and African experts call for decisive steps to bring back abducted children More>>

EU & US Let Iran Win Top Seat On UN Women’s Rights Board

EU & US Allowed Iran to Win Top Seat on UN Women’s Rights Board, Rights Group Says More>>

Peaceful Tree Planting Attacked By Zionist Settlers/soldiers

Peaceful tree planting attacked by zionist settlers and soldiers, two Palestinians hospitalised and a German activist arrested. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news