Kachin court clears Yuzana tycoon

The owner of the powerful Yuzana construction company who became the subject of a lawsuit filed by aggrieved farmers in Kachin state has been absolved of any wrongdoing.

Farmers had claimed that Htay Myint, who is also standing as a candidate for the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in elections next month, had orchestrated the illegal confiscation up to 200,000 acres of farmland in Burma’s northern Kachin state.

Yuzana took over swathes of land in the Hukawng Valley, which was recently declared the world’s largest tiger reserve, for the planting of sugar cane. Locals there said that bulldozers had been sent in to flatten villages in preparation for the plantations. Recent reports also claim that employees have been given weapons training.

Instead the courtroom in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state, cleared Htay Myint and pointed the finger at the coordinator of the Hukawng project, Pu Kyi, who happens to be Htay Myint’s brother.

“The judge said the coordinator can compensate for the farmers’ loss and decided that the trial may go on with the coordinator but not…U Htay Myint, who is currently working on projects and lives in Rangoon,” said Bauk Ja, who has been assisting in the lawsuit.

The prosecution has protested that Pu Kyi was only following orders, and that it should be Htay Myint who is in the dock. I knew that [the court decision] was to save the owners’ name,” Bauk Ja said.

Around 600 farmers in five villages in the area have been affected by the land grab, which began in 2007. They were moved to a newly built village and given 80,000 kyat (US$80) per acre of land normally valued at 300,000 kyat (US$300).

The 17 farmers who filed the lawsuit had rejected the compensation. Twenty more later filed for more compensation, and their trial will be held on 15 October. DVB has learnt that 50 more farmers are also seeking more compensation.

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