Locals are opposing an offer put forward by the Hsihseng administration in southern Shan State to compensate them for farmland seized by the military with highland farms that would need to be cleared of trees that the villagers have conserved.
The township’s council—part of the Pao-O Self-Administered Region—said they would give around 200 acres of land to Hsihseng farmers whose land was confiscated by the Burma Army.
“The local authorities and the Hsihseng self-administered council are creating it. They said they would pay the highland farms as compensation to farmers. I heard that they already reported it to the Shan State government,” Kaw Li, headman of the Kong Sut village tract told SHAN.
The 200 acres in question are in the mountains and forested.
“We don’t agree with the creation of highland farms for compensation. There are many trees there. We don’t want them to cut down trees. We will try to oppose it,” Kaw Li said. “We have tried to conserve this forest. They will easily come to cut down the trees. We will protect our forest.”
Locals launched an opposition campaign to the plan on July 18, saying that they have long relied on the forests in question for firewood and building materials for their homes.
Local authorities have reportedly already sent machinery to the site to cut down the trees and create farmland.
Farmers against the initiative have said they will send a petition to the Shan State government and the area’s ethnic Pa-O administration to stop the deforestation.
“We don’t want them to cut down our trees,” a local man backing the protest told SHAN.
The Hsihseng-based Burma Army columns of LIB-423 and LIB-424 have confiscated more than 1,900 acres of land from farmers in five villages in Hsihseng Township in 1996, but did not inform the locals that the land had been seized, nor did they compensate them. The army has prosecuted 70 farmers for trying to use the land.
The Burma Army continues to have land disputes with locals in Kong Sut and Pin Sone village tracts in Hsihseng Township.