Burma

Kachin Armed Group Attacks Factory Owned by Crony Close to Former Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 2 April 2021

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) carried out an arson attack on a plant of the Yuzana Co in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township early on Thursday, according to local residents. The company has been embroiled in disputes with local people over the confiscation of land in the Hukawng Valley.

“The arson attack took place between 1 am and 2 am. I didn’t hear gunshots. The employees inside the factory put out the fire. I could still hear the sound of burning in the morning,” a resident who lives near the factory said on Thursday.

The plant which was attacked is located near Ledo in Hpakant and produces tapioca starch and sugar.

Some residents said the factory caught fire while KIA soldiers attacked the junta’s security forces. But others said that they did not hear gunshots and that it was purely an arson attack. The KIA’s Brigade 2 is active in Hpakant.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach the KIA for comment. There were clashes between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) and the KIA in rural areas of Hpakant and Namti along the Ledo Road on Thursday.

The Yuzana Co was founded by Htay Myint, a businessman linked to the former junta that ruled Myanmar from 1992-2011.

Yuzana has confiscated over 300,000 acres of land in the Hukawng Valley in Hpakant and Tanai townships for cassava cultivation since 2006. The Hukawng Valley is known as the world’s largest tiger reserve.

Kachin residents of Wara Zup village lost their ancestral lands to the Yuzana Co. Their efforts to claim back the land have been met with threats and beatings by Yuzana Co employees in collusion with the local authorities.

Land confiscation has also affected hundreds of Kachin residents along the Ledo Road in Hpakant and Tanai townships. Many have lost their livelihoods along with their land.

“The village administrators told me that the fire started around 1 am and that oil tanks were still burning in the morning. They said the oil tanks were bursting open,” said Bauk Ja on Thursday. Bauk Ja is the vice chairwoman of a Kachin-based group which was formed to negotiate between the military council and anti-regime protesters in Kachin State,

She is also an activist who has acted for Wara Zup villagers in demanding farmland rights and compensation for confiscated land.

“They still mistreat the local people. People are still suffering. The higher-level authorities may not know about it. But things haven’t changed on the ground. Yuzana Co employees have bullied the local villagers and they are arrogant and still threaten the people,” Bauk Ja said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Yuzana Co for comment. Local residents said they could hear oil barrels bursting in the factory until 2.30 pm on Thursday afternoon.

There have been only a few clashes in Kachin since 2018 and the Tatmadaw and the KIA were in the process of negotiating a ceasefire before the military’s Feb. 1 coup. But tensions were reignited after security forces shot dead three anti-regime protesters in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina during the second week of March.

As of March 11, the KIA has attacked military outposts and police stations in Hpakant, Bhamo, Injangyang, Waingmaw, Shwegu and Putao townships. On Monday, the Tatmadaw carried out airstrikes on battalions 11 and 14 of KIA.

 

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