Sunday, October 24, 2010

Farmers Fight for Their Land in Kachin State

“Every day, I can hear farmers crying. I see their despair and their tears,” said Bauk Ja, a Kachin farmer who lost her land to the Yuzana Company in December 2008. “We farmers depend on our land for agriculture. It is our livelihood and our life. Without land, we have nothing!”

The 44-year-old is the appointed leader of one of the groups of farmers in Hukawng Township, a rural area west of state capital Myitkyina. She spoke to The Irrawaddy after a State Court decision exonerated Yuzana Company Chairman Htay Myint from prosecution on Tuesday.

However, all is not lost for Bauk Ja and her fellow farmers: although the court in Myitkyina threw out the lawsuit against the company chairman, it said it would allow a case to be launched against the director of Yuzana, whose name was not revealed.

The State Court decision was greeted with skepticism by most observers who see the case as yet another signal that military cronies such as Htay Myint are above the law.

Htay Myint is known to be close to several military generals in Burma and is blacklisted with sanctions by the US and the EU. He is running as a candidate for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in Tenasserim Division in next month's general election, and, according to sources, has upward of 100 million kyat (US $100,000) to spend on campaigning.

“We cannot omit the chairman of the company from our lawsuit, because the director is below the chairman on the company ladder,” said Bauk Ja.
Htay Myint is accused by the farmers of establishing a massive mono-crop plantation on 200,000 acres of land in the Hukawng valley.

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