Villagers fled to Lashio after they say they were pressured to consent to an agribusiness project by an SSPP captain.
More than 200 people in Lashio Township’s Mang Pieng village fled to the city after they say they were threatened by a captain within the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), leading the armed group follow up on the allegations.
“We received a letter from local people in the area. We have already met locals there. We directed the person who committed the wrongdoing to see us. We are going to look into both the local people and the individual in question,” SSPP spokesperson Col Sai Su told SHAN.
The villagers went to stay in a church in Lashio’s Ward 9 on June 5, but have since returned to their village. They say they opposed a 300-acre agribusiness project near their village in E-Nai village tract, but that an SSPP captain had pressured them to accept it.
“We were forced to sign an agreement for the project. We didn’t sign the agreement,” Ko Htoi Shawng, who lives in Mang Pieng village, said. “The captain and his fellow soldiers with full military equipment came to our village and threatened us on the night of June 4. After that, we were afraid and we fled to Lashio.”
According to Ko Htoi Shawng, the village land management committee also prohibited the agricultural project, because of an overlap onto local farmland. The company involved began plowing the land with tractors on May 31.
He added that after the opposition letter was signed, “somebody would call our names from the jungle.”
“We would not go there,” he said. “If they had called all of us, then we would have gone there.”
According to Col Sai Su, SSPP is taking the case seriously.
“They should not protest by fleeing all at once, before the problem has been inspected,” he said. “I think there might be some political motivation—somebody wants to create a bad image for the SSPP. I think there will be an interesting issue behind this.”
The Burma Army now has a presence in the Mang Pieng area, and the government’s social relief and resettlement ministry has provided assistance to the villagers.