Locals Vow to ‘Report the Truth’ in Land Dispute With Tissue Culture Banana Company

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Locals have demanded that government officials resolve their ongoing land disputes with a company involved in tissue culture banana cultivation in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township.

Villagers from the community of Muk Chyik in Nam Wa village tract held a press conference at the Agape Hotel in Myitkyina on Tuesday, demanding that the government address their land claims against the Generation Star Co. Ltd.

“We are farmers. We only know and understand how to grow plants. We don’t know how to undertake a legal process in court,” Lay Khet Aye, who has lost three acres of land to the company, said at the conference. “We want to request that government’s officials consider our situation and come to observe the situation on the ground.”

Generation Star has had to stop its agribusiness project due to the ongoing disputes, and is prosecuting villagers in the state court over the land claims. They are demanding 120 million kyat (more than US$83,000) in compensation.

The villagers have also filed a countersuit against the company.

“We can not pay 120 million kyat. My family cannot even earn 100,000 kyat per month. How can we pay it? That’s why we want to request that the respective government [officials] resolve this dispute,” Lay Khet Aye said.

Another local, Dau Zel, said that Generation Star has accused villagers of not only forcing them to stop their agriculture project, but also of destroying the banana plants in their nursery. Villagers deny both claims.

“[They said] they have suffered a lot because they could not continue their project,” he explained. “They have stopped their project because the government has taken action against the company. The company started its project without permission. That’s why government has stopped their project. We didn’t stop them. What we did was send a letter to the government. After that, the government ordered them to stop the operation of this project. We reject their compensation request.”

The land on which the dispute is taking place is around 300 acres, and includes a plot belonging to the local Baptist church.

Pastor La Naw Lum Dau, of the Muk Chyik Baptist Christian Association, said that the Muk Chyik church was prosecuting Generation Star because they allegedly destroyed the church’s land when they prepared the ground to plant tissue-culture bananas.

“We depend on the rule of law. We have had many difficulties in facing this unjust case in court. We will report the truth. We want the rule of law to be enforced in our area,” the pastor said.

Generation Star brought charges against seven villagers in April 2018; they were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment or a 50,000 kyat fine in November 2019.

Villagers rejected the verdict handed down by the Waingmaw Township court and have appealed it at the Myitkyina District court.