Soldiers have  been accused of beating and kicking civilians who complained about a roadblock set up by the military on a path in regular use.

Two soldiers were also injured in the fracas, which occurred on January 27 at Kantomin in Yat Kwat Gyi, Pyin Oo Lwin township.

The surrounding land was reportedly seized by the Military Technological College in 1993, since when residents have been allowed only limited access.

Last June, the military started fencing off the land. On January 27, soldiers put up an iron gate across a road leading to downtown Pyin Oo Lwin from nearby villages.

“We asked them not to close the gate and told them we’d submitted a petition to the army commander-in-chief not to cause inconvenience by blocking the way. But they said the gate would only be closed at night. While we were discussing it, they started to hit us with hoes and the fighting began,” U Myint Aung, a resident, told The Myanmar Times.

One of the many civilians injured in the fracas is still receiving treatment at Pyin Oo Lwin Hospital.

“They grabbed my hair and hit my face and kicked me. A lot of my hair came out,” said Ma Yon Ei Phyu, a 10th-standard student who received medical treatment.

U Myint Aung said the military had failed to return the land as promised.

“The country is in a democratic transition and the army has publicly announced that all confiscated land now unused would be restored to its owners. They have not built on this land, but instead of giving it back, they’ve fenced it off, and beat civilians who complained.”

Two soldiers injured in the clash are now being treated at a military hospital.

Last August, the Military Technological College also served notice on farmers in Nyankwal village to vacate land they had been cultivating, claiming it was owned by the military.

“This land has been owned by the military since 1952, in return for compensation with land in Moekyo and Moekyo Kwatthit villages,” a sergeant at the college who refused to be identified told The Myanmar Times. “We’ve observed that some illegal land transaction have taken place on military land at Kantomin, and have filed lawsuits accordingly.”

He added that the gate would not be closed permanently. “Access will be allowed day and night. Security will be posted there. There will be no building project. It is up to our superiors whether or not the residents can continue living there.”