Highway ‘trespassers’ given a reprieve
A planned eviction of shantytowns along the Yangon-Mandalay highway has been indefinitely suspended, with housing officials citing monsoon rains as the reason behind the delay.
TENT-DWELLERS along the Yangon-Mandalay Highway have been granted a reprieve, apparently to avoid making them homeless in the rain, officials say. The bulldozers have been put on hold until further notice, though no eviction date has been set.
More than 4000 tents and shanties line the highway on either side. Their residents insist they have nowhere else to go, and that if their modest homes are destroyed they will simply come back and rebuild them.
U Yu Khaing, director of the Department of Urban and Housing Development, told The Myanmar Times on September 23 that an initial order to clear the shantytown had not been followed up.
“I’m worried that the trespassers would have problems if they were evicted during the rainy season, and we’re still waiting for specific instructions. So the order is suspended,” he said.
The DUHD, which is part of the construction ministry, and Hlegu township’s General Administrative Department had already issued eviction notices with respect to the shantytown, which is located between the 3 mile 2 furlong and 5 mile 2 furlong posts in Hlegu township. The settlement covers an area of about 1454 acres (581 hectares), which had been originally earmarked by the agriculture department for the planting of lemongrass. The DUHD took over the land last March for housing.
“Reasonably priced housing will be built on that land, with international-standard schools and hospitals,” U Yu Khaing said.
The eviction notices issued on September 5 said the operation would take place on September 17, but the date passed and nothing happened.
“The Ministry of Construction will remove the trespassers. But I think the eviction was postponed because of problems relating to the rainy season,” said Hlegu township administrator U Aung Kyaw Oo on September 26.
Trespassers on the same stretch of land were removed by the former government last December. The current residents, many of whom returned after the previous eviction plan, have renamed their dwellings Aung Yadanar, Yadanar Aung and Gantgaw Kyun villages. Many of them come from Kayin and Kachin states and Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions, Ko Win Ko, a resident of the selfstyled Aung Yadanar village, told The Myanmar Times on September 26.
“After they sent in the bulldozers, a lot of strangers came to take advantage of the confusion,” he said.
“The government should be able to tell who has a real housing problem and help them. They could pay in monthly installments of K20,000 or K30,000,” he added.
“We wrote to Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein asking him to find them somewhere else to live,” said a local villager, U Pyone Cho. “Unless the government finds them alternative accommodation, they’ll just come back.”