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Labour activists released

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Two activists who had assisted farmers in central Burma in filing legal proceedings against the seizure of their farmlands by local industry, have been released.

Myint Maung and Thura Aung, from Aunglan Township in Magway Division, were released from Thayat Prison on Tuesday after winning an appeal through the Central Court in Mandalay Division.

The appeal was lodged against decisions taken by the Aunglan District Township Court and Magway Division Court.

In December 2009, Myint Maung was sentenced to two years in prison under section 427 of the Penal Code, while in late 2008 Thura Aung was given seven years under section 6 (1) of the Public Property Protection Act. Following the ruling of the Central Court, their sentences were reduced to six months and one year, respectively.

“Our cases were not nullified by the Central Court in Mandalay. Our sentences were just reduced. That still means we committed a crime,” Myint Maung told Mizzima.

“They unjustly charged me with mischief. That makes my history bad. So, I can’t accept it. I’ll continue legal proceedings in this case,” Myint Maung said.

In November 2007, the Yone Seik sugar mill No. (5), owned by Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., seized farmlands from 70 farmers in Aunglan Township and 57 farmers from Myohla village, forcing them to grow sugarcane.

The farmers lodged a complaint against the action with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Rangoon office the following year.

In March 2009, officials from Burma’s Ministry of Labour and the ILO went to the area and notified the farmers that they were again permitted to cultivate their lands as they chose.

However, when the farmers began cultivation in the summer, township authorities and sugar mill officials implicated them in cases of trespassing. The eleven farmers who lodged a complaint with the ILO were subsequently arrested and sentenced to varying prison terms.

Ten of the farmers were since released in February of this year, along with a lawyer for their case, Pho Phyu. But Aye Win, another of the farmers, continues to serve her prison term.

Additionally, Htay Aung, Zaw Htay, Aye Myint, and Nyan Myint, who assisted the farmers in filing the complaint at the ILO office, remain in Thayat Prison to complete reduced sentences.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 25 August 2010 16:02 )  

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