Two people were killed while two others were seriously injured when police opened fire into a crowd in Shar Khae Gyi Village on Thursday evening.
Locals gathered in front of the village administration office to demand justice for their fellow villager Ko Talote who was allegedly beaten to death by workers from the nearby fish farming business.
“He was accused of destroying the water course of the fish farming lake and taken to the village administration office last night where the workers beat him,” said a villager. As soon as the villagers knew he was dead, they caused a dispute with the workers there. Later officers from Police Station arrived, tensions rose and the police opened fire and four people were shot.
Disputes in the area have occurred since May when more than 100 locals from neighboring villages protested against the Department of Fisheries (DoF) bidding procedure for permits. Local fishermen claimed the process was unfair as they would lose their right to fish and so also their livelihoods. Bidding was postponed at that time and locals were assured that they would have same rights as the private companies.
Tensions between locals and the fish farmers have been escalating with villagers killed and suffering injuries. Locals say they want justice for the deaths and the right to fish in the area in the future.
Ayeyar Shwewar Company, reportedly own by Aung Thet Mann, son of the Lower House of Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, formally owned a business in the area from 1998 until 2011. According to local sources, the company used Burmese troops from Kyone Pyaw Township-based Battalion 36 to take care of security and stop locals fishing in the area. Soldiers frequently fired shots to scare away trespassers while those caught were reportedly beaten severely.
Before 1998, local fishermen and fish farmers were taxed by the Ministry of Cooperatives to fish in the lake. Since then it has become under the control of the DoF which allocated permits by holding auctions for private fishery companies.