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Fishermen in Tenasserim Division’s Dawei District have been receiving death threats from a gang of illegal loggers who have accused them of exposing their activities.
The threats began after a local news journal, the Tenasserim Weekly, published an exposé of the illegal logging operations in a recent issue. The report included photos of the suspected loggers in action along the Buhtaung beach in Dawei’s Launglon Township.
Local fishermen from a nearby village said that after the report was published, the loggers accused them of exposing their activities and threatened to kill them if they speak to authorities again.
Maung Maung Aye, the chairman of Tenasserim-based Tavoy Nationalities Party, said it was actually officials from his party who exposed the logging activities, not the villagers.
“Last month, we visited that beach area to donate solar panels and we took photos of piles of timber that had been illegally cut down. Soon after, the photos appeared on the front page of the Tenasserim Journal,” Maung Maung Aye told DVB.
He said there was a settlement of around 30 huts on the beach belonging to fishermen from nearby Dechay village. He added that thugs believed to be members of an illegal logging ring visited the fishermen last week, threatening them with knives and guns.
“The illegal loggers arrived at the beachfront settlement and scared the residents — they threatened to hack them to death with axes and swords if they report to the authorities about their activities again. The men were said to be carrying firearms, too,” he said.
The Tenasserim Nationalities Parties on 29 October released a statement demanding that the regional government immediately deal with the matter and stop illegal logging activities in the area.
Violent incidents involving logging activities have become increasingly common since a ban was imposed earlier this year.
In June, forest ranger Myo Min Kyaing was killed as he tried to stop loggers on a river barge in Shwebo in Sagaing Division, and other officials have been attacked or died in pursuit of logging gangs.