The farmers in Thegon Township began protesting against land grabbing and government inaction in February 2014 (AHRC, 2014). The protest was raided by sixty police and plain-clothed accomplices (believed to have been hired thugs) (Noreen, 2014). Four protestors were charged for not having a license to demonstrate while others were assaulted; resulting in two women being hospitalised (AHRC, 2014). No steps have been taken since the protest to address the grievances of farmers. The four farmers arrested by police were charged under section eighteen of the Peaceful Assembly and Demonstration Law for protesting without a license (AHRC, 2014). This has been criticised by the Asia's Human Rights Commission because the law does not enable people to gather and express their views freely and democratically; instead, it enables authorities to arbitrarily issue permits to civilians who wish to protest (AHRC, 2014).
Lack of institutional capacity forces farmers to protest
Prior to clashes with police, aggrieved farmers had pursued other methods to address the issue of land grabbing. Over sixty written complaints were sent to some twenty-four government departments and agencies and no satisfactory response was received (AHRC, 2014). Given the limitations in institutional capacity to provide a forum for conflict mediation for land conflicts, citizens had no other option other than to protest (AHRC, 2014). After government inaction to compensate farmers or to return their land, more protests ensued in following months. Police arrested another five farmers and charged them for disturbing public peace (Noreen, 2014).
Police were ordered to disperse protestors. A number of protestors were charged for demonstrating without a permit and disturbing public peace. No dispute resolution process was engaged with to address the issues which had caused the protest.