Locals have opposed a move by a construction company to seize more than 250 acres of land in southern Shan State’s Mongnai Township to build housing for staff of a hydropower plant.
The land is used for farming and is located in Kunglong village tract in Keng Tawng sub-township.
Villagers from the area sent a letter outlining their opposition to the district and township offices in mid-July, and fear that the plan will go ahead anyway.
Lung Ti, who lives in Wan Kert village in Kunlong, said that villagers were put under pressure by the construction company to accept the project.
“The company [officials] showed us a map and urged us to sign it. We didn’t agree to it,” Lung Ti said.
According to Myanmar’s Electric Power Cooperation (EPC) website, the Keng Tawng hydropower plant was built in 2012 and generates around 60 megawatts of electricity, which is distributed in some townships in southern Shan state, to the eastern military command headquarters in Taunggyi and the central-eastern military command headquarters in Kholam.
“This farmland is not far from the Keng Tawng hydropower plant; it is located around the village,” Mongnai parliamentarian Sai Myo Myint, also known as Lung Kung Hseng Mueng, told SHAN. “The villagers disagree with it. They have opposed it. We are helping the villagers.”
According to villager Lung Ti, the construction company said that the government had already given them permission to build the housing for the staff of the hydropower plant, and that they had already surveyed the land.
“They said that they measured the land in 2012. We did not know anything about it. They did not inform us when they come to measure the land,” he told SHAN.
Lung Ti added that he is concerned that the villagers are opposing powerful actors.
“We cannot win in this case because they have come with the government and army,” he said.
Sai Khur Hseng of the Shan Sapawa environmental organization also spoke out against the land seizure and urged locals to stand against it.
“All villagers must oppose it. The respective authorities must take note of this and need to protect [the land]. If they seize the land, local people will lose their farmland. They will suffer a lot,” he told SHAN.
Another controversial project in the area, the Upper Keng Tawng hydropower dam on the Nam Teng River, a tributary of the Salween, has been strongly objected to by locals and Shan civil society for its potential to displace thousands and fuel conflict in the area. It is located 14 miles from Keng Tawng town and is expected to be completed in 2021.