The authorities in the Pa-O Self-Administered Region of Hsihseng Township in southern Shan State have stopped a plan to clear trees from mountains for highland farms to redistribute to farmers who had their land seized by the military.
The Pa-O farmers objected to the creation of farms in Kong Sut and Pin Sone village tracts, because the authorities would have had to cut down more than 200 acres of forest in an area home to ethnic Shan people in order to create the farmland. Locals protested the plan on July 18.
“The authorities stopped creating highland farms in the proposed area. We don’t know where they moved this project to. Currently, they have stopped the project in the proposed area,” Sai Pueng Harn, a Shan youth who lives in Hsihseng Township, told SHAN.
The project was stopped on July 23 and the authorities withdrew tractors and heavy machinery from the area, he added.
The Burma Army’s LIB-423 and LIB-424 confiscated more than 1,900 acres of farmland in Hsihseng, which Hsihseng authorities planned to replace with 200 acres of highland farmland as compensation.
Communities in the area in question rely on the forest for firewood and building materials.
“We do not oppose the project to create highland farms, but we do oppose the destruction of the forest,” Sai Pueng Harn told SHAN. “Creating highland farms by destroying the forest is not the right way. That’s why we oppose it.”
Pa-O farmers who would have been beneficiaries of the project say that they are glad that it has been stopped, because of the deforestation it would have required and the potential for interethnic conflict.
“We are happy to hear this news, so we won’t have misunderstandings between Pa-O and Shan people. There is peace between the Shan and Pa-O because they have not destroyed the forest,” Cho Cho Win, a Pa-O farmer whose land was confiscated by the Burma Army, told SHAN.
She said that she did not want to be handed farmland that required a forest to be destroyed.
“I want to get my original farmland back. Even though the army has confiscated our farmland, they have not carried out any project on our farmland. They do not grow any plants there. We used to grow crops there,” Cho Cho Win explained.