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Kachin IDPs fear land grabs in the villages they once called home

Border trade, …has…revived and crossings are busy with trucks entering China loaded with products from Myanmar, particularly corn, banana, rice, watermelon and animal feed. Many of the companies that have set up banana plantations are thought to be fronts for Chinese investors. …[A] lawyer from Waingmaw Township in Kachin State, said the technical expertise and investment come from China, and all of the produce from the plantations is exported. Most of the labourers are migrants from Rakhine State. …“Only Myanmar companies are allowed to invest in banana plantations but everyone knows many Chinese people are investing[.]”

… The news that companies from China are investing in banana plantations is causing anxiety among…villagers living in IDP camps in Kachin, …U Dashi Lamaing…was shocked to recently find a plantation had been established on part of his orange orchard. …U Thein Soe…said local media had reported that the government has granted a 30-year lease to a private company to establish a banana plantation near his village. He despairs at the prospect of losing his land.

Kachin State Hluttaw lawmaker U Naw Li…said…that the government had not given legal approval to plantations on land owned by IDPs. …[He] submitted a question to the state assembly about the banana plantations, and the government responded that it would “find a way to solve the problem”. “…I got a lot of complaints from IDPs about their land,” … “We have started collecting information on how much land has been occupied, when the plantations were started and where they are located.” …the Kachin Independence Organisation, issued a statement…warning that the illegal occupation of land by some companies and individuals to establish plantations must stop. …

The Reverend Lama Yaw, of the Kachin Baptist Convention, said the Union government and all armed groups in Kachin – including ethnic armies and the Tatmadaw – had a responsibility to ensure that villagers displaced by war did not lose their land. “There will be problems if the refugees return home and discover that their land has been taken[.]”…

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