Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tense stand-off over pig farms eases

Police personnel pulled out of Paya Mengkuang New Village at 4.05pm, easing the worries of pig farmers who had expected to see all their animals forcibly culled today. It is learnt that as part of a deal struck at a two-hour meeting between state authorities and MCA top leaders, the farmers will now voluntarily relocate at least 1,000 of their pigs to Johor and Selangor within the next few days. This could not be immediately confirmed. Since this morning, about 100 villagers had faced off 300 enforcement officers in a tense stand-off over action to close their pig farms. The villagers had kept a vigil in the area since last night.All major roads leading into Paya Mengkuang - about 30 minutes’ drive north of Malacca city - were cordoned off by the police, isolating the village. Numerous media personnel resorted to seeking local knowledge for off-road entrances to the area.Fifty of the state enforcement officers stood by in plastic-suits, waiting for the state government’s order to move into the pig farms to kill the animals.
About 100 police personnel were also on stand by, of which about 50 of them were anti-riot personnel armed with batons, canes, revolvers, gas-canister launchers and automatic rifles. Six excavators had been brought in to dig mass graves to bury the dead pigs while six police trucks including some with water cannon were stationed in the vicinity. Human barricadeOn the other side were the villagers - men, women and children forming a human shield at the main entrance to their farms. The barricade included a number of small trucks. They were carrying a dozen national flags and two big banners commemorating the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence. The state government had identified at least 15 farms to be closed to reduce pollution and the number of pigs. Chief Minister Muhd Ali Rustam was reported to have told the state assembly in July that the pig population would have to be reduced to a maximum of 48,000 to control pollution emanating from the farms.There are currently 120,000 pigs in the state. In addition to Paya Mengkuang, two other villages are affected by the directive - Ayer Molek and Bukit Beruang new villages. Police are believed to have pulled out of these areas as well.

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