Border demarcations leave Shan farmers on Chinese soil

The serpentine Shweli River can be seen north of Namhkam where the Burma-China border (yellow line) cuts through the town. Shan farmers north of this line say they want to remain in Burma and have farmed this land for generations. (Google Earth)

Farmers in villages around Namkham in northern Shan State say they plan to send a letter of petition to Burma’s President Thein Sein to voice their concern that new border demarcations will leave them on the Chinese side.

Temporary border posts have been erected about half a mile from the farming hamlets of Sae Khon, Kongthar and Ban Nong in Namhkam Township, following talks between Burmese and Chinese officials last week.

Burma appears willing to cede the land – some 200 acres south of the Shweli River – to China. However the farmers say they want to remain in Burma’s Shan State, having worked on these lands for several generations, according to Sai Sai Wang, the local chairman of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (also known as the White Tiger Party).

The farmers plan to send a letter of petition to the president, insisting they want Burma to protect these lands which they inherited, he said.

“Not only the White Tiger Party, but also the Tiger Head party are joining together to help the villagers,” Sai Sai Wang told DVB on Friday. “These lands belong to Shan State in Burma and we reject any agreement that marks them as part of China.

He said the farmers’ petition will be sent not only to Thein Sein, but to the chief minister of Shan State, the respective district and township administrators, and other related parties.

The White Tiger Party representative said that the Burmese authorities had not informed the local people what was happening, but had only issued warnings to farmers not to try to pull out or change the border markers.

Villagers allegedly tore out and destroyed temporary border markers that were installed on 27- 31 May.

MP Sai Pho Aung from nearby Muse constituency said he is collecting information and will raise the issue in parliament.

Burmese state media on 5 June said that the government is not reassessing the border but implementing military demarcations agreed in 1960 and 1995. The report said that authorities will educate and advise the farmers who are growing crops in the areas between Namhkam and the Shweli River marked for transfer.

By NANG MYA NADI (DVB)

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