Yangon municipal police moved in to demolish the Michaungkan protest camp at around 3 am in the morning on February 26 and arrested 14 land rights protesters and four other people.
The camp was located beside the Mahabandoola Garden in Kyauktada Township in Yangon.
The protesters have been camped out to demand justice over land that was confiscated by the authorities in Michaungkan in Thingangyun Township in 1991, seeking return of the land, compensation or alternative land.
A day before the arrests, a local police chief ordered the protesters to remove their camp because he claimed the authorities planned to dig a ditch at the site.
Kyauktada Township Court charged the 14 protesters with Section 18 ofthe Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law and Latha Township Municipal Court charged them with Section 68 of the Municipal Act.At around 5:30 pm on February 26, all of those arrested were released.
Claims were made that violence was used during the night-time arrests.
Speaking about the incident, High Court lawyer U Robert San Aung said: “If they [the protestors] violate the law, the authorities can arrest them. But the authorities who make arrests must obey the law. They should not be violent. Injuring [the protesters] is unacceptable.”
He said that the people who were arrested suffered small injuries to their arms, hands and legs.
Ma Than Shwe, a Michaungkan protester who was arrested, said: “While we were staging the protest to demand our land back, they came to the camp at 3 o’clock in the morning, carried out violent acts and arrested us. They pulled our hair and arrested us. We received small injuries on our arms and legs.”
Daw Myat Myat Soe, one of the four food sellers who were arrested, said they heard in advance that the authorities would crack down on illegal sellers and would seize their handcarts. So she said she took care to put her handcart nearby.
The case against the 14 protesters will be heard on March 11.
On February 18, Kyauktada Township court sentenced 14 other Michaungkan land rights protesters, who protested by blocking the entrance to Yangon City Hall, to six months in prison. In addition, U Sein Than, aleader of the Michaungkan protest, has also been held in prison since 2014.