Hukaung Valley residents decry Yuzana Company’s presence
Almost all the farmers in two villages in the Hukaung Valley in Kachin State have voted against the continued presence of the Yuzana Company Ltd., in the ecologically sensitive area, the Kachin News Group reported on October 14.
More than 1,000 farmers from Nawng Mi and Shahtu Zup on the Ledo Road participated in a community referendum on October 8 and 98 per cent voted against the company’s presence in the valley, Hkun Sa, a resident of one of the villages was quoted as saying.
U Hkun Sa, who lives in Nawmg Mi village, helped to organise the referendum, the report said.
The Kachin News Group said farmers told a reporter at the vote that they welcomed the opportunity to express concern about Yuzana’s operations in the remote valley, which contains the world’s largest tiger reserve.
Hkun Sa said he was planning similar polls in other villages in the valley.
The Kachin News Group report said there has been controversy over the company’s activities in the valley since 2006 when it allegedly appropriated thousands of acres of land from farmers to establish sugar cane and tapioca plantations.
The farmers who lost their land did not receive adequate compensation, said Daw Bawk Ja, the Kachin State leader of the National Democratic Force and a land rights activist.
The report said Daw Bawk Ja has helped farmers to sue Yuzana for the return of their land.
A tiger reserve was established in the remote valley in 2001 by the former military government and the New Yorkbased Wildlife Conservation Society. In 2004, the reserve was expanded to include the entire valley, covering about 21,890 square miles (56,700 square kilometres).
Environmentalists have described the decision to establish the reserve as a sham, saying that since 2004 the government had encouraged monoculture plantations and gold mining in the valley.