Updated: 02/28/2013 04:11 | By Agence France-Presse

Policeman killed, scores injured in Myanmar land clash

A policeman was killed and more than a dozen farmers wounded -- some by gunfire -- during a protest over land ownership in Myanmar's Delta region, activists and police said Wednesday.

Policeman killed, scores injured in Myanmar land clash

Policeman killed, scores injured in Myanmar land clash

They said 26 police were also injured during Tuesday night's demonstration, in which farmers demanded the return of 500 acres (200 hectares) of land in the Irrawaddy Delta which they say was seized by the military government in 1996.

Around 300 farmers have been protesting about the alleged land grab since last week, and have vowed to continue until the land is returned to them by the private company that bought it from the former junta.

Similar demonstrations have taken place across the country since 2011, when the repressive junta was replaced by a civilian government.

Analysts say protesters have been emboldened by reforms since the end of the junta which routinely crushed dissent of any kind.

Parliament has now been tasked with solving hundreds of resurgent land disputes. But Tuesday night's clashes in Maubin township were a reminder of the incendiary nature of such disputes.

A crackdown on a protest camp at a copper mine in November left scores injured, prompting accusations of abuses by authorities.

A police official in Maubin, requesting anonymity, told AFP the officer died during treatment in Yangon from a stab wound, adding police "acted with restraint" and had only fired warning shots.

Activists painted a different picture of events, saying at least 14 farmers were hurt, including three who suffered bullet wounds, as police sealed off the area and opened fire.

"The police opened fire more than 100 times. We did not think that they will be so cruel," Tun Naing, an activist for farmers' rights close to the scene told AFP.

He said farmers had been trying to secure the return of land seized from six villages in the area and sold to a livestock company which has kept it idle.

There were no new reports of violence as dusk fell in Maubin. But one of the wounded villagers said they had seized the chance to reclaim their land and livelihoods as farmers, rather than day labourers, after years living in fear.

"We didn't dare to complain when the military government seized our land as we were frightened," Naing Win, a villager shot in his arm and back, told AFP from hospital.

"I did not think they would shoot us. Although I got shot, I will continue until we get our land back."

Under the military government land was routinely appropriated across Myanmar without explanation or compensation and handed out to cronies for their own use or sold on to private companies.

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