A wealthy Burmese businessmen, Htay Myint, is establishing a massive mono-crop plantation in the world’s largest tiger reserve in the Hugawng Valley in Kachin State in northern Burma, according to Kachin environmentalists.
Htay Myint, the owner of Yuzana Company, is on the US and EU’s targeted sanctions list because of his ties with the Burmese military regime.
The Yuzana Company was granted 200,000 acres in the Hugawng Valley Tiger Reserve in 2006 to establish sugar cane and tapioca plantations, according to a report titled "Tyrants, Tycoons and Tigers" released on Wednesday by the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG), an Kachin environmental group.
The report documents how fleets of bulldozers and backhoes have razed forests and destroyed animal corridors, while leaving the conservation group's signboards standing.
“The destruction in Hugawng makes a mockery of the tiger reserve,” said Ah Nan, a spokesperson of the KDNG.
The report also highlights the struggle of indigenous farmers who are being forcibly relocated to make way for the plantation. If they complain, farmers have received threats from employes of the Yuzana Company, according to the report.
The reserve was established in 2001 with the support of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). WCS has remained silent on the encroachment into the reserve, according to the KDNG report.
Htay Myint said, in a meeting attended by Burmese officials, ministers and businessmen in mid-August, that he will run as a candidate for a constituency in Tenasserim Division, and that he plans to spend more than 100 million kyat (US $101,500) on his campaign, according to sources close to military officials.
Ah Nan said, “These tycoons are a new face of tyranny in Burma. They’re set to enjoy even greater power after the elections.”
Burma’s military regime recently outlined a National Tiger Plan, in which it said it will double the country’s tiger population by 2022. The plan will be submitted at the Global Tiger Summit in later this year.