64-Year-Old Man Stabbed to Death over Parking Dispute in Rangoon

By Tin Htet Paing 17 December 2015

RANGOON — A 64-year-old man was stabbed to death in downtown Rangoon on Wednesday evening following what witnesses said was a dispute over a parking space.

Soe Hlaing had attempted to break up a physical altercation involving his son and another man on Hledan Street over a parking dispute when he was stabbed in the chest, according to witnesses. He was taken to Rangoon General Hospital at around 7:40 pm on Wednesday but died in transit.

The victim’s son, Hlaing Win Htun, told The Irrawaddy that similar quarrels had occurred in the past but had not escalated.

“The problem should not be solved this way no matter how heated the argument gets,” he said.

The incident has sparked a debate about Rangoon’s haphazard urban planning controls, with at least two experts reiterating calls for local authorities to urgently address the city’s rapid and largely unregulated urbanization.

Rangoon-based urban planning expert Than Moe told The Irrawaddy that similar incidents could reoccur if local authorities continue to allow building permits for high-density structures in Rangoon’s already congested downtown, without appropriate planning and control measures.

“Rangoon’s problem over car parking space could be relieved by implementing multistory car parking buildings,” Than Moe said.

“But, as far as I know, projects that focus on benefits for residents in Rangoon are very rare.”

The number of vehicles on the streets of the commercial capital has increased significantly since the beginning of economic reforms in 2011. According to Than Moe, there are an estimated 400,000 registered vehicles on Rangoon’s roads.

Local architect Maw Lin said a fundamental issue was a lack of systematic urban planning controls.

“As long as they don’t care where developments are allowed, such incidents will happen again in future,” he said.

In December 2014, an international forum on the role of heritage in sustainable development was held in Rangoon in response to the challenges facing Burma’s most populous city. Participating experts wrote an open letter to President Thein Sein requesting “urgent action” to reign in unchecked urbanization and enact legislation on building and zoning plans.