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Top Burmese tycoon ravaging world’s largest tiger reserve

By Kachin Development Networking Group  •  August 25, 2010

A report released today reveals how Htay Myint, one of Burma’s most powerful tycoons, is establishing massive mono-crop plantations in the world’s largest Tiger Reserve in northern Burma’s remote Hugawng Valley.

Htay Myint’s Yuzana Company, a Burmese conglomerate with close ties to the ruling military, was granted 200,000 acres in the Hugawng Valley Tiger Reserve in 2006 to establish sugar cane and tapioca plantations. The report Tyrants, Tycoons and Tigers by the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) details how fleets of bulldozers and backhoes have been razing forests and destroying animal corridors, leaving only the conservation signboards standing.

The Reserve was established in 2001 with the support of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). However WCS has remained silent on this destruction of the Reserve and has even claimed that Hugawng Valley will be a cornerstone of tiger conservation in the future.

“The destruction in Hugawng makes a mockery of the tiger reserve,” said KDNG spokesperson Ah Nan. “Yuzana is doing whatever it likes with the aid of the generals and the silence of conservationists.”

Despite the plantations, Burma’s military regime claims in its recent National Tiger Plan that it will double the country’s tiger population by 2022. The plan will be submitted at the Global Tiger Summit in later this year.

The new report also documents the struggles of indigenous farmers being forcibly relocated to make way for the plantations. They have organized themselves to resist attacks and intimidation from Yuzana and regime officials, opened a court case against the company and asked the International Labor Organization to intervene.

Htay Myint, targeted by EU and US government sanctions due to links to the junta, is slated to become a regional governor after Burma’s upcoming elections.

“These tycoons are a new face of tyranny in Burma,” said Ah Nan. “They’re set to enjoy even greater power after the elections.”

Contact:  Ah Nan +66 84 885 4154  kdngchn@gmail.com

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The Kachin Development Networking Group has been monitoring the situation in the Hugawng Valley since 2006, publishing “Valley of Darkness” in 2007.

Download the full report Tyrants, Tycoons and Tigers here.

Photos and video from the Reserve are available for media

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