Locals say that the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has seized nearly 10 acres of community forest and farmland near Kawng Hser village in Hseng Khao village tract in Namtu Township, northern Shan State.
“TNLA soldiers have cut the trees there without reporting it. Locals tried to stop them but they said they won’t stop it,” said a man who requested anonymity for security reasons.
He said they complained to the local government, but a General Administration Development official said they couldn’t do anything about the armed group and suggested they complain to the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), which is allied with the TNLA.
“The government’s departments are unable to stop the TNLA, so the local people informed the SSPP headquarters and their field officers. The SSPP headquarters said they’d discuss it with the TNLA,” the man told SHAN.
Although the cutting work was interrupted for a while, the Ta’ang soldiers were back at it on Wednesday 26 April, he explained.
The community forest is 40 acres in total and contains many teak and other hardwood trees, of which the TNLA has reportedly already cut down five acres, including other trees on private land belonging to local residents.
According to locals, TNLA officer Tar Ohn Phe is leading the operation in the township in Kyaukme District.
When asked by SHAN, Lt-Col Tar Aik Kaw, the TNLA spokesperson, said, “Our troops have started a IDP (internally displaced persons) rehabilitation and resettlement programme in the area. These people were displaced by previous clashes between the TNLA, the Burma army and the RCSS (Restoration Council of Shan State). I don’t know anything about the confiscation of the community forest and farmland in this area.”
Locals said TNLA troops have built new villages for Ta’ang nationalities near Ner Mert in the Pan Chin village tract and in Chauk Mai Kon in Hseng Kha village tract in Namtu Township.
Fighting between ethnic armed groups (EAGs) and the Burma army and between EAGs in Namtu Township happens frequently in Kyaukme District.