A tissue culture banana company is prosecuting seven villagers in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township and demanding 120 million kyat (US$83,000) in compensation for the halting of their agribusiness project.
Generation Star Co. Ltd. has filed charges against villagers from Muk Chyik in Nam Ma village tract, blaming them for the suspension of banana cultivation near their community. Villagers say that the company was working without permission on their land.
The villagers held a press conference at Agape Hotel in Myitkyina on February 25 to address the charges and demand help from the relevant authorities in resolving them. Their land, they said, was initially seized in 2018.
“We haven’t committed any wrongdoing. We are living in our village. The villagers are dissatisfied with what the company has done to our land,” villager and social worker Seng Li, said in the press conference on Tuesday.
The pastor pointed out that the villagers were not to blame for the suspension of the company’s activities, and that the government had ordered them to stop their project.
Last November, a Waingmaw Township court sentenced seven villagers from Muk Chyik to six months’ imprisonment or a 50,000 kyat fine for destroying property that the court deemed belonged to Generation Star. The villagers are currently appealing the sentence at the Myitkyina District court.
The company’s demand for 120 million kyat has been filed at the state-level court.
“I don’t understand why they are demanding more than 100 million kyat in compensation. I am already old. We have had to plant our trees [on this land] for more than 30 years. Now it’s already three years [since the land dispute began]. We have had many difficulties,” another Muk Chyik pastor said in the press conference.
The area in dispute covers more than 300 acres. Generation Star reportedly bought some land plots from local villagers in 2018, but then expanded its project to plots owned by others who had not given their consent for the land to be used to cultivate tissue culture bananas.
“The villagers have suffered a lot. The villagers didn’t destroy their own land plots. The company has destroyed the land plots of the villagers. These villagers don’t have knowledge about legal processes. We want truth and justice for villagers in court,” Seng Li said.