Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mandalay religious land dispute continues

No progress has been made in resolving a land dispute affecting Lawka Tan Saung and Bo Bo Lay pagodas in Mandalay’s Pathein Gyi township, despite several letters of complaint to township authorities, pagoda trustees are saying.

Trustees of two pagodas in Mandalay’s Pathein Gyi township are involved in a land dispute with a land owner who they claim has sold plots around the pagodas that he does not own. (Khin Su Wai/The Myanmar Times)Trustees of two pagodas in Mandalay’s Pathein Gyi township are involved in a land dispute with a land owner who they claim has sold plots around the pagodas that he does not own. (Khin Su Wai/The Myanmar Times)

The trustees said they have sent three letters of complaint to Pathein Gyi township administrators to no avail, and will next send letters to regional office.

“I know township-level officers have been negotiating with the trespassers but we have seen no progress,” chairman of the trustees U San Tun said.

“Now we can see that the area surrounding these pagodas is fenced off,” he added.

U San Tun said there is not even space for the entrance arches for the pagodas. He added that the land around the pagodas was agricultural land and should not have been able to be sold at all – and should not be built upon.

U Kan Htoo, an 80-year-old resident and patron of the pagoda trustees, said there was a 20-foot gap between Lawka Tan Saung Pagoda’s compound and the next building when he was young.

But over the years houses have crept closer and closer to the pagoda.

U Shein, another trustee, said the expansion of Mandalay had enveloped the pagoda.

“Aung Chan Thar, in Pathein Gyi township, is close the University of Technology and the village is very busy. And a six-lane road passes close by, which has lead to increased development in the area,” U Shein said.

The front arch of Lawka Tan Saung Pagoda is about 150 feet from the main road, he said.

“The owner of the land surrounding the pagodas is U Win Bo,” U Shein said.

“He signed an agreement in front of the community leaders in 2010 stating that 12-feet would be kept clear near the archway. But he has not kept that agreement.

“He also enclosed the pagoda’s pond within his compound. All the villagers know about this,” he said.

U San Tun said Sayardaw Yaw Kaw, a revered monk, bought a plot around the pagoda from U Win Bo for K3000 to ensure it remained religious land – but failed to secure the ownership documents. U San Tun said U Win Bo is now saying the sale never took place.

He added that the issue is being exacerbated by people conducting low-level land grabs – simply fencing off a piece of land and claiming it as their own.

“These pagodas were built in King Mindon’s era, according to the inscribed stones at the pagodas. But now it’s getting difficult to even access them – there’s no space left for a wall or fence at Bo Bo Lay Pagoda,” U San Tun said.