Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Farmers in the northern Burmese state of Kachin are preparing to sue a company with close ties to Burma’s ruling military junta for confiscating family-owned land, the farmers said.
The lawsuit against Yuzana Company, owned by junta-linked tycoon Htay Myint, was to be filed because the firm had confiscated a total of 1,038 acres (420 hectares) held by farmers in Warazuap, Aungra, Sharuzuap, Bangkok and Namsan villages in Phakant, Moenhyin District in Kachin State for more than three years, they said.
The company had failed to seek consent for the confiscation nor had it offered compensation for losses of their mostly cassava crops, the farmers said.
Farmers petitioned Myitkyina Court for redress on Friday, but a Judge Tuja proposed they negotiate with the company through the Kachin State Peace and Development Council, but no date had been set for talks, the farmers’ lawyer Myint Thwin said.
If the negotiations failed, the farmers would sue the company under section 19 of one of the agricultural acts and section 13(3) of the Burma Laws Act, and claim 80 million Kyats (US$80,000) in compensation, the lawyer said.
“It is a civil compensation suit. If someone is treated unfairly and loses something, he or she can charge the cheat”, he told Mizzima.
No response has been received to complaints filed about the land grabs to the peace and development councils of Phakant Township, Moenhyin District and Kachin State and Burmese junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, the farmers said.
“The Yuzana Company has been cheating us for more than three years. Now, we don’t have farmlands to cultivate crops,” a farmer said on condition of anonymity. “And they have done nothing for it. That’s why we are trying to file the lawsuit.”
In Phakant Township, there are 2527 acres of paddy fields, 997 acres of crops, and 441 acres of gardens, so the total is 3965 farmlands, according to the land office at Phakant Township.
Yuzana chairman Htay Myint is one of the wealthiest businessmen in Burma and hails from southern Burma. Exile media reports say he has been or remains president of the Construction Owners’ Association, the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association and the Myanmar Project Association, and is the owner of one of Myanmar’s biggest supermarket, hotel and real estate conglomerates.
According to Burma analyst Bertil Lintner, his junta contacts were strongest with former prime minister General Khin Nyunt, who was ousted in a purge in October 2004. “But the fact that Yuzana is still doing booming business in Burma indicates that he must have other high-level contacts as well,” he wrote in the Asia Times.
Htay Myint and Yuzana are both on the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list as they conduct business with the junta, and are therefore complicit in the ruling Burmese military government’s large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma, among many other abuses.