Human Rights Commission Criticizes Forced Relocation of Squatters

By Moe Myint 4 February 2016

RANGOON — The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has urged authorities to relocate squatters by more humanitarian means after large-scale evictions were carried out recently in Rangoon’s Mingaladon Township and Mandalay Division’s Pyin Oo Lwin.

In a statement released Wednesday, the MNHRC advised authorities to increase awareness of such evictions among affected households through the release of statements and prior warnings. The commission also recommended that transportation be provided to those who are ordered to vacate, in addition to social assistance.

About 500 households were demolished in Kon Ta La Paung village in Rangoon’s Pyinmabin Industrial Zone on Jan. 26. In Nyaung Ni village in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Division, the Burma Army evicted more than 150 people from 28 households. Authorities claimed that the villagers were trespassing on property owned by the military.

In both cases, temporary shelter, food and health care were promised to the displaced, but MNHRC reported that no such provisions were made; now those whose homes were demolished are reportedly living on roadsides, facing water shortages and again looking for vacant land on which to set up dwellings. Among them are pregnant women, children and the elderly.

MNHRC also reminded squatters to respect the rules and regulations determined by the government regarding relocation.

On Thursday morning, when contacted by The Irrawaddy, MNHRC Vice Chairman Sitt Myaing confirmed the commission’s position as laid out in the statement, but did not provide further comment.

Htun Htun Win, a new National League for Democracy (NLD) legislator now representing Mingaladon Township’s Constituency No. 2 in the Rangoon Division parliament, told The Irrawaddy that the squatters are Burmese citizens and that the authorities should not ignore their needs.

“We will solve [this problem] the best way we can during our government’s term,” Htun Htun Win said.

Some hope that subsidized housing could address the problem of homelessness in urban centers. Earlier this month, the regional government in Rangoon put out a call for applicants to lease apartments for 30,000 kyats (US$24) per month at Bandula Housing in South Dagon Township. The offer attracted applications from hundreds of people who do not currently own property. According to local media reports, demand for the apartments is much higher than the number of available rooms.