Monday, September 25, 2017

Protests held over proposed hotel at speech site

Plans to build a new hotel in Hpa-an in a historic park with links to Bogyoke Aung San are at risk following an outbreak of public opposition.

Protestors at the construction site in Hpa-an hold signs that read “Get out.” Photo: Saw Sein WinProtestors at the construction site in Hpa-an hold signs that read “Get out.” Photo: Saw Sein Win

Managing director U Moe Kyaw of Sone Ye Construction said his company had received “legal permission” from the Kayin State government to develop the US$15 million hotel on the corner of Kantharyar and Strand roads in the Kayin State capital. He dismissed demonstrators’ claims that the site had historical significance and should be left as a public park.

But after more than 1000 people, including Buddhist monks, staged a rally demanding a halt to the project, and after a flood of petitions and written complaints, he may be forced to reconsider.

At the demonstration in Hpa-an on October 6, protesters said the site had been used by Bogyoke Aung San to deliver a message of unity to ethnic Kayin prior to independence. They carried placards bearing the message, “Get Out”.

Local Amyotha Hluttaw representative U Saw Aung Kyaw Naing of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party said he had raised the issue with Thura U Shwe Mann when the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw speaker visited Hpa-an in November 2012. The speaker ordered the Kayin State chief minister and the Ministry of Home Affairs to halt the development immediately in line with the people’s wishes.

But U Moe Kyaw of Sone Ye said the company had already paid $8.7 million in taxes and signed a contract with the Hpa-an district administrative office to complete the project within a year.

The project is being developed by three firms. One of those is Mya Htay Kywe Lin, a company run by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army that bought a 90-year lease on the land from the district administration office in 2000.

The other Amyotha Hluttaw representative for Hpa-an, U Mann Kan Nyunt of the USDP, said the DKBA company then sold shares in the property to Yaung Ni Oo and Sone Ye Construction as part of an agreement to jointly develop the hotel.

He said a complaints committee set by the Amyotha Hluttaw had forwarded several letters about the project to parliament for further

investigation.

The Kayin State government did not respond when contacted for comment but the companies involved said they would respect the decision of the President’s Office and parliament.

“We will stop this project if they decide we are wrong,” said U Moe Kyaw. “But if they decide we are right we will continue. It should be by the law.”