Saturday, January 8, 2011

Court delivers verdict in Yuzana case, appeal likely

Saturday, 08 January 2011 12:20 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Kachin State Court in Myitkyina handed down its verdict in a land confiscation class action brought by a group of farmers yesterday, ordering the Yuzana Company to compensate plaintiffs for their losses.

The 63 plaintiffs, subsistence farmers from Phakant Township in Moenhyin District, Kachin State, had lodged the class action against the company in September 2010 for confiscation of family-owned lands in 2007.

The Yuzana Company has close ties to Burma’s ruling military leaders.

The verdict was reached this evening after a panel of judges considered witness testimony.

Under the decision the company must pay compensation to the amount of 80,000 kyat (US$80) per an acre of confiscated paddy field, 60,000 kyat (US$60) per acre of crops, and 30,000 kyat (US$30) per acre of garden. In addition, farmers must be compensated an additional 150,000 kyat (US$150) for loss of home, land rights activist, Bawk Jar told Mizzima.

“The compensation rate was set by the Kachin State Peace and Development Council", he said.

However, Lamung Tang Gun, one of the plaintiffs in the case said the court’s verdict was not fair.

“We have been unemployed for three years because of the confiscation of our farmlands. We demanded 800,000 kyat (US$800) from the company as compensation, but the court awarded only 80,000 kyat (US$80)”, he said.

“We cannot accept the verdict”.

The company was accused of confiscating more than 1,038 acres (420 hectares) held by the farmers in Warazuap, Aungra, Sharuzuap, Bangkok and Namsan villages. The firm planned to grow cassava and sugar cane as cash crops.

A total of 148 farmers had originally been party to the lawsuit. However, prior to the court case, the company had offered a settlement worth only 80,000 kyat (about US$80) per an acre, resulting in a number of farmers withdrawing from the class action.

At the time, only 17 plaintiffs remained but were joined by an additional farmers experiencing severe deprivation of livelihood.

The lawsuit was initially brought against company owner Htay Myint, an MP-elect from the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. However, his name was removed as defendant, replaced by Pu Kyi, reported to be his brother, on October 12.

Bawk Jar stated: “The farmers want to get their lands back. They want fair compensation from the company”

“If the farmers launch a protest, Htay Myint will be responsible for the mess” he said.

The plaintiffs plan to file an appeal on the decision with the Naypyidaw-based Supreme Court.

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