Yuzana in Dispute with Hukawng Valley Villagers over Graveyard Site
Local people living in the Hukawng Valley region of northern Kachin State say that the Yuzana Company has destroyed signboards that they posted to mark a graveyard site at a location along the Lido Road.
Residents of the villages of Ban Kawk, Awng Ra, and San Pya placed the signboards at the site earlier this month. According to the villagers, Yuzana staff removed the signboards about a week later.
“Our three villages lack a graveyard, so we held two meetings with multi-faith groups. After we reached a decision, the village headmen reported it to the Yuzana Company’s office. They didn’t respond to us, so we went ahead and posted the signboards. About a week later, the company took them all down,” La Awng, a resident of Awng Ra, told KNG.
The three villages have a total of 600 households. Residents say that when they want to bury their dead, they have to pay a burial fee to use the graveyard in another village, Shahtu Zup.
There used to be a graveyard in Ban Kawk, but according to Chyauchyi Hkawn San, who lives in the village, they lost it after Yuzana moved into the area to establish an agribusiness project.
“Yuzana destroyed our graveyard in 2008 without any consultation with the people of Ban Kawk. There is now a pagoda on that ground. Behind the pagoda are company farms. Local people haven’t had a graveyard ground since then,” Chyauchyi Hkawn San told KNG.
KNG tried to contact village headmen and officials of the Yuzana Company for comment on the issue of the graveyard signboards. One village headman, Naw Di, said that he didn’t have the authority to establish an official graveyard. Yuzana did not respond to calls.
Local people said they have been engaged in land disputes with Yuzana for more than a decade, but that the government has not yet resolved any of these issues.
While the company has been accused of ignoring the rights of villagers, locals say they have also asserted their right to the land by using it for grazing and other purposes without permission from the company or the government.