Burmese Police Clash with Villagers in Electricity Dispute

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A motorcycle passes under electrical wires in Mandalay division, March 21, 2011.
A motorcycle passes under electrical wires in Mandalay division, March 21, 2011.

Police clashed at the weekend with residents after the electricity supply to a village in central Burma was cut off, allegedly as punishment for voting for the opposition in elections, according to residents.

Four people were hospitalized and the head of an area monastery, who appeared to have led the protests in Hnitkyarkhwe village near Kyaukpadaung in Burma’s Mandalay region, was arrested, a local monk told RFA’s Burmese Service.

“The clashes erupted after the electricity line that serves the village was cut off in some areas,” he said.

Local officials of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were behind the power supply disruption because of the party’s loss to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in the April 2012 by-elections, the monk said.

He alleged that workers who came to cut off the power supply to the village tried to ram the abbot, identified as Sayadaw Kawsala, with their vehicle after he told them not to disrupt the power supply.

The abbot avoided being hit but his arm was injured and his robes were torn in the incident.

He and the villagers then pulled the driver out of the vehicle and surrounded it, preventing the workers from leaving until power was restored, the monk said.

“There was a stalemate until about 80 police came into the village and arrested the abbot,” triggering the clashes, the monk said. 

Stones were pelted at the policemen who used batons to beat the residents, he said.

The monk said that a number of villagers tried to take shelter in the village’s NLD headquarters, but that police entered the building and continued to beat the people inside, injuring them and damaging office property.

He said that the local USDP members wanted to cut off power supply to the village because they were angry about having lost their positions as area officials to NLD members.

“It’s because the NLD won in the by-elections and they are upset about it. That’s why they harassed NLD members and destroyed the NLD office,” the monk said.

“They tore down the NLD signboard, broke the NLD’s flagpole, and destroyed the office building’s roof.”

No contact

Kyaukpadaung NLD member Aye Khine said that security forces had been sent to the village from a number of surrounding townships.

“Police who came to the village were not only from Kyaukpadaung, but from neighboring Myinchan and Nyaungoo townships as well,” he said.

“The police took the abbot at 11 p.m. last night. The villagers shouted not to take the abbot from inside the NLD office, but the police went in and beat the villagers who protested against their actions.”

The monk said that the village head had done nothing to stop the violence.

“He didn’t do anything. This whole thing happened because of the village authority. He is acting unfairly towards us.”

He said that the villagers have been unable to contact Abbot Sayadaw Kawsala.

“They won’t let us contact him. We called the police station last night and they didn’t pick up the phone,” he said.

“We went to the police station this morning, but they wouldn’t let us meet him.”

Phone calls by RFA to the local police station went unanswered.

The USDP, the successor party to the previous Burmese military junta’s Union Solidarity and Development Association, won three quarters of the seats in parliament in the last general election in November 2010, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted.

But in by-elections in April last year, the NLD won 43 out of 44 seats it contested, making it the largest opposition party in parliament and ushering into office the longtime democracy leader, who had spent most of the past two decades under house arrest under the former military junta.

Reported by Zin Mar Win and Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.





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