Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More villagers vote against Yuzana company in Kachin state's Hugawng Valley

Oct 8, 2014 The poll was collected in Nawng Mi village in Hugawng Valley in western Kachin state, Burma

An overwhelming 98% of farmers in two villages in western Kachin state's Hugawng Valley (also spelled Hukaung Valley) voted against the Yuzana company's continued presence in the ecologically sensitive area during a community plebiscite held on October 8th.

More than 1,000 farmers in Nawng Mi and Shahtu Zup villages on the Ledo (or Stilwell) Road took part in the vote, according to Hkun Sa, a referendum organizer from Nawng Mi.

Of the 857 total votes counted in Nawng Mi, 852 were against the project. Similarly in Shahtu Zup, 282 of the total 284 votes cast were against Yuzana, according to Hkun Sa.

Local farmers who took part in the vote told Kachin News Group (KNG) reporter who witnessed the vote that they were happy to have an opportunity to express their concerns about the Yuzana company's operations in the Hukaung valley.

On September 22, a vote was held in five villagers, Wa Ra Zup, Ban Kawk, Yuzana Model Village, Nam Sheng and Awng Ra. During that vote 97% of total votes rejected the Yuzana company's presence in the valley.

Poll's will be conducted in the remaining villages in the valley, said Hkun Sa.

The Yuzanan company led by USDP MP Htay Myint, a close ally of retired General Than Shwe, is no stranger to controversy in the Hukawng Valley, where beginning in 2006 the firm with the support of Maj. Gen. Ohn Myint then northern military commander, expropriated thousands of acres from small scale farmers to make way for large scale sugar cane and tapioca plantations. Htay Myint and Ohn Myint were both elected to Burma's parliament in 2010.

More than 200,000 acres of land has been seized by the Yuzana company in the Hukawng Valley over the last 7 years according to a report issued by Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG). Paddy fields and farms from 11 villages along the Ledo (Stilwell Road) were seized according to KDNG. The following villages were affected by the land grab Nawng Mi, Wara Zup, Awng Ra, Nam Seng, Sanpya, Ting Kawk, Ban Kawk, Shahtu Zup, Laja Pa and Nam Hpak.

Farmers who last their land did not receive proper compensation after Yuzana stole their land, according to Bawk Ja, a land rights activist and politician who currently serves as the National Democratic Force’s Kachin State leader. Bawk Ja has helped the farmers sue Yuzana to get their land back.

In 2001, Than Shwe’s military regime in collaboration with the US NGO Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) officially created a large tiger reserve in the Hukawng Valley. In 2004 the Burmese regime with the public endorsement of WCS extended the tiger reserve’s total area to include the entire valley of 21,890 sq km, creating what has been claimed is the largest tiger reserve in the world.

Environmentalists and critics of the Burmese the regime have called the tiger reserve a complete sham, they point out that since 2004 the Burmese regime has actively encouraged large scale gold mining and monoculture plantation farming to take place in much of the valley.


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