Tag Archives: Magwe

Myanmar land grab victims turn to black magic

AP Photo/Khin Maung Win<br /><br />
In this photo, land grab victims from Michaung Kan in eastern Yangon stage a sit-in at their protest camp in front of downtown City Hall in Yangon, Myanmar, against land confiscation by the military many years ago. They have eagerly tested newfound freedoms by protesting and sending petitions to the president and parliament, to no avail. Now some are turning to old ways: Curses and black magic. Coffins marked with the names of those who seized property have been set ablaze. 

YANGON, Myanmar — Victims of land grabs in Myanmar have eagerly tested newfound freedoms by protesting and sending petitions to the president and parliament, to no avail. Now some are turning to old ways: Curses and black magic.

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Coffins marked with the names of those who seized property have been set ablaze. In rugged central regions of the country, aggrieved villagers have prayed for mountain gods to unleash their wrath.

“This is our last weapon,” said Sein Than, who was among 200 families evicted from homes at Michaung Kan in eastern Yangon, where they had lived for generations. He and dozens of others presented offerings – and pleas – to “demons of the Earth.”

“Punish those who grab our land and desecrate the pagoda,” they chanted this month in front of a Buddhist temple. “Drag them to the lowest level of being and keep them there forever.”

Land seizures by the military, the government and private companies linked to junta cronies have long been commonplace in this Southeast Asian country, whether for development or the extraction of natural resources.

Many of those who lost their land in the biggest land grabs in the 1990s were relocated to remote areas. Some became squatters on their own land, or were allowed to continue farming if they paid rent. Some houses of farmers who did not give up their land have been bulldozed.

The elected government that ended a half-century of dictatorship in 2011 has restored speech freedoms, released political prisoners and implemented other changes that have prompted the international community to ease sanctions. Many victims of land grabs had hoped new government would help them, but evictions have continued.

Some who have challenged the system have been charged with disrupting public tranquility or violating a new law on peaceful assemblies, offenses punishable by up to two years in prison.

Sein Thein and other families from Michaung Kan were among those staging frequent protests in front of Yangon’s city hall. Their sit-in protest is in its second month, but with few options available to them, some now see appealing to mystical forces as a last resort.

“We sought the powers of the demon to put an evil spell on those people who grabbed our land,” said Sein Than….

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Myanmar land grab victims turn to black magic

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