Over 200 villagers march to demand the abolishment of Hkakhaburazi National Park
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Over 200 local villagers organized a protest at the peak of Waiphi Mountain in Pannandin township, northern Kachin State, on December 21, 2018, calling for the abolishment of the National Park of Hkakhaburazi and an end to oppressive park regulations.
The villagers walked for four miles from Pannandin up to the park management office on the top of Waiphi, carrying banners and placards, where they were met by police and park staff.
The villagers are demanding a return to customary management of the mountainous area. Since the national park was established in 1998, they have been restricted from traditional practices of farming, hunting, fishing, finding herbal medicine, and cutting bamboo or wood for family use.
Several of the villagers’ placards stated “We don’t want WCS,” referring to the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which has assisted the Union government in establishing the national park, and enforced restrictions on local villagers.
“Government police and WCS staff check local travellers and sometimes threaten them with guns,” said a local villager.
Seventy households, from five villages – Kawai, Dazungdan, Tasuhtu, Hkayawng, Ngawa – have been forcibly evicted from the park area, and forced to move to Nawngmon village, where they have no access to farmland.
In May 2017, over 1,000 villagers wrote a petition to the Union Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, calling for the abolishment of the National Park, and opposing plans to turn the area into a World Heritage Site, but there has been no response.
The Hkakhaburazi national park is 3,810 square kilometers in size, covering the northernmost region of Kachin State. It contains Mt. Hkakhaburazi, which at 5,881 meters, is believed to be the highest peak in Burma.