Reprisals and rubber tree destruction in Kaw Taung

November 6, 2012

HURFOM: For the past ten years, landowner Daw Tin Tin Mya has permitted 45-year-old Daw Oung Mya Kyi to grow more than 3,000 rubber trees on her property in Khamout Pyin Township, part of Kaw Taung District in southern Burma. Recently though, disputes between the cultivator and local members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) led to the destruction of around 500 young trees. Residents claim that authorities have not taken appropriate action to quell the conflict, and worry that lawlessness continues despite the country’s process of reform.

The issue began last year when USDP member U Than Sein cut down a section of Daw Oung Myit Kyi’s rubber trees without permission and built a house in the clearing. In August 2011, Daw Oung Myit Kyi hired workers to tear down the unsolicited structure, after which U Than Sein destroyed a temporary shelter on her rubber plantation. Daw Oung Myit Kyi took U Than Sein to court, where he was found guilty of property damage and put in jail.

In March 2012, the local USDP secretary in Khamout Pyin, U Aung Zaw Hain, allegedly mobilized around 100 party supporters to demolish about a third of Daw Oung Myit Kyi’s rubber trees and vandalize her home and farming equipment. The group also reportedly antagonized Daw Oung Mya Kyi’s sister, Daw Nyout Nyout Than, who lives nearby. Now, Daw Oung Mya Kyi has approached the courts again, contending that these actions constitute retaliation for U Than Sein’s incarceration and charging 33 USDP members with destruction and harassment.

The purported assailants maintain that they received an official order to cut the trees because they were planted on cemetery land.

In an interview held in late October, Daw Oung Mya Kyi said, “I feel very bad that the government is still not solving problems that occur between the public and the authorities. Although I will try to prosecute the people who destroyed my rubber trees, I already believe that I won’t win in court. If the government continues to work like this, the [country’s] people will not achieve peace. I want all the authorities to be accountable to the public.”

U Than Tun, the regional organizer of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), stated, “We cannot accept that the [local] USDP members took revenge on the resident instead of solving the problem through law.”

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