A Burmese army battalion has forced the owners of 132 acres of paddy field in Arakan State off of their land, warning them they would be shot if they resisted.
According to local sources, Col Ba Nyar Win, commander of Light Infantry Battalion 539 based in Kyauktaw Township, ordered farmers in the villages of Prein Chaung and Outapyin to hand over their land and then removed all of the ripened paddy in military trucks.
“The battalion commander and around 70 soldiers threatened us and told us to leave without taking any of our harvested crop,” said a local farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They said they would shoot us if we didn’t get off the land in 10 minutes,” he added. There were about 30 farmers harvesting the paddy when the incident occurred last Thursday.
For three days after commandeering the fields, which are owned by 28 farmers, the families of soldiers serving in the battalion harvested the remaining paddy under armed guard.
The farmers said they sent a letter of complaint to the authorities, including President Thein Sein, the chief minister of Arakan State and other state ministers.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Arakan State Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Kyaw Thein said he was inspecting the case and will reach a decision within days.
“We will look at both sides. Both the battalion commander and the farmers claim they own the farmland,” said Kyaw Thein, vowing to make a fair judgment.
Kyaw Thein said that around half of the total crop had already been harvested. “We told them not to take the remaining paddy until the dispute is settled,” he said.
At a meeting with the farmers and military personnel on Thursday, the minister promised to resolve the matter within five days.