Day Workers Blocked From Banana Farms

Jam Ga village in Waingmaw township, Kachin State, northern Burma.

Hundreds of day workers employed on tissue-culture banana farms in Waingmaw township, in Kachin State, have been told not to go back to work.

Dau Hkawng, the village administration officer for Jam Ga village, and the village tract that it’s part of, told KNG a local order was issued “to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” If the day workers go back to work after being warned twice they’ll be fined the third time, he said.

Dau Hkawng said the village tract issued the order to prevent workers from travelling to the area during the coronavirus pandemic.

The local market was recently shut down.

“From a health perspective, I think it was a good idea to close the Jam Ga market,” Lum Yang, from Jam Ga village, told KNG. Vendors are also prohibited from selling food from motorcycles in Jam Ga village tract, Dau Hkawng said.

The minimum wage in Burma is only 4,800 MMK per day (est. US$3) but banana farms in Waingmaw township pay between 8,000 MMK (est. US$6) to 16,000 (est. US$12) MMK a day. Dau Hkawng told KNG some of the workers come from China, central Burma, and Myitkyina township.

There are medical checkpoints at Maina tour gate and Muk Loi junction checking the temperatures of travellers coming from Myitkyina but daily workers travelling by boat from Khat Cho aren’t passing through medical checkpoints, Dau Hkawng said.

The land leased by Chinese companies for the banana cultivations used to be farmed by residents from the village tract. It has a population of about 5,000 that live in 11 villages.

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