Tuesday, 19 November 2019

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Land seizure protests turn deadly in Delta

A policeman was killed and more than a dozen farmers wounded—some by gunfire—in clashes during a protest over land ownership in Myanmar's Delta region, activists and police told AFP Wednesday.

A further 26 police were injured during Tuesday night's demonstration, where farmers demanded the return of 500 acres (200 hectares) of land in the Irrawaddy Delta which they say was seized by the military government in 1996.

Around 300 farmers have been protesting the alleged land-grab since last week and have vowed to continue until the land is returned to them by the private company that bought it from the former junta.

Similar demonstrations have taken place across the country since 2011, when the repressive junta was replaced by a civilian government. Parliament has been tasked with solving hundreds of resurgent land disputes.

Tuesday night's clashes in Maubin township were the most serious since a crackdown on a protest camp at a copper mine in November left scores injured.

"The policeman died while getting treatment in Yangon because of a stab-wound," a police official in Maubin told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We didn't want to harm civilians ... so we acted with restraint. That's why many police were injured," he said, adding officers had only fired warning shots.

Activists painted a different picture of events, saying at least 14 farmers were hurt, including three who suffered bullet wounds, as police sealed off the area and opened fire.

"The police opened fire more than 100 times. We did not think that they will be so cruel," Tun Naing, an activist for farmers' rights close to the scene told AFP.

He said farmers had been trying to secure the return of land seized from six villages in the area and sold to a livestock company which has kept it idle.

"The company just kept the land without doing anything. So the farmers want to take it back," he said, adding "they will continue to fight until they get their land".

Under the military government land was routinely appropriated across Myanmar without explanation or compensation and handed out to cronies for their own use or sold on to private companies.

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