Tension over contested land led to a confrontation between members of Yuzana Company Ltd and local farmers in a Kachin State village on May 17.
The village in question, Nawngme, is in the Hukawng Valley in Hpakant Township.
Locals told The Irrawaddy that around 60 people representing Yuzana came to the area with knives and sticks, telling 10 farmers: “We will take back our place. You need to go away from here.” The farmers then reportedly called for assistance from other locals, and the confrontation eventually de-escalated.
One local man had a small wound on his neck, after a man allegedly affiliated with Yuzana put a knife to his throat and threatened to cut him, said land rights activist Sai Awng from Mungchying Rawt Jat (MRJ).
“We did not dare to respond to anything when they first came. But, when more and more of our farmers came to join, then they dared to fight us,” he said.
U Ye Myint, a manager from Yuzana, said that members of his company had gone to plough the land but that it was they who had been attacked by local farmers.
“They brought other farmers from Nawngme and Nanmati. They confronted us, to attack us,” he said.
The village head from Nawngme, the township authorities from Hpakant, and the Karmine police reportedly called U Ye Myint, asking him to resolve the dispute through the law, and to halt cultivation of the land in the meantime; he said he had complied.
Yuzana—which is involved in many industries, including agriculture, construction, and hospitality—now claims ownership of large amounts of forested land in Kachin State, where people have complained that up to 8,000 acres of land has been confiscated by the company.
The land was reportedly taken by Yuzana in 2007. Since last year, around 100 families have returned to 1,000 acres of the land to grow food, according to U Brang Seng, a local farmer from Nawngme.
The company did not complain after their return in 2016, but has reportedly began to grow hostile.
U Ye Myint said that an increasing number of farmers from Myitkyina and Nanmati townships have come to occupy land near the Yuzana compound since last year. But, even though the company has sent a letter of complaint, the regional government has not take action in response, he added.
When Yuzana got the land, U Ye Myint said that it “belonged to no one,” and alleged that only after it had been cleared did locals claim it.
Both Yuzana and local farmers say that they have official documentation demonstrating that they own the land in question.