Monday, September 25, 2017

Police probe demolition of homes in industrial zone by hired gang

Violent clashes broke out in northern Yangon as armed men, apparently hired by a landowner, forcibly drove off residents before destroying their homes with bulldozers. The men later attacked a monastery where the residents had taken refuge, damaging some of the monastery buildings, according to eyewitnesses.

The clashes occurred in the industrial zone near Sin Phone village in Mingalardon township, Yangon Region, on the morning of June 12, according to Police Captain Win Myint, head of Mingalardon township police.

“The area is quiet now. We are investigating allegations made by both sides,” he said.

On June 12, at about 7am, a group of men allegedly hired by the owner of plot 236/237 in Mingalardon Industrial Zone started to destroy the huts in the plot using three excavators. Of the 78 homes, 48 were demolished, according to police.

According to a statement issued by the township General Administrative Department on June 13, entrepreneurs granted working permits for plots in the industrial zone were required to develop buildings on their sites not later than November 6. The statement said it was necessary to remove people living in the industrial zone in line with the law.

A villager who witnessed the scene but declined to be identified due to safety concerns said, “First, two excavators came, each with about five men aboard, and accompanied by about 50 people carrying sticks, knives and catapults. They destroyed the fence of Ko Tun Tun’s house with the excavator, then used it to knock down three houses in front of his house. While Ko Tun Tun and the villagers were negotiating with that group, a person who appeared to be the leader continued to destroy property, saying it was being done on the orders of their superior. During the fighting, one of the armed gang threw something at the villagers, injuring three of them.”

The eyewitness said the leader of the group fired into the air twice with what appeared to be a gun.

Pol Capt Win Myint said that if a gun was really fired then police would “take serious action”.

About 300 people armed with sticks and knives arrived at the nearby Dekhinaryone monastery, where villagers whose houses were destroyed had assembled for temporary shelter, on June 13 at about 11am and fired stones at the monastery with catapults.

“They entered the monastery with catapults and knives and fired stones at the buildings in the monastery compound and at the villagers staying in the monastery, injuring four of them. When township police and civil society organisation members arrived, they ran away,” Ma Than Than Win from Sin Phone village said.

The owner of the land, U Tun Tun Win, has also filed a complaint with police. According to police, he has admitted hiring the people to clear the homes, but said he did not condone or promote the use of violence or threats. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The land is inside an industrial zone developed by Zaykabar company, owned by prominent business identity and upper house parliamentarian U Khin Shwe.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun