Land Prices Soar in Muse As New Zone Attracts Chinese, Burmese Investors

By Nang Seng Nom 28 August 2013

RANGOON — Chinese and Burmese businessmen have been rushing to buy up land in a new economic zone in the border town of Muse, northern Shan State, causing local land prices to skyrocket, according to residents, who claim that prices have topped US$200,000 per acre.

“This is a big project and Chinese people really like it. Every day, many people from PRC [People’s Republic of China] come to purchase lands from that project zone. Generally, the buyers give two hundred million Kyats [about $205,000] for a one-acre plot,” resident Sai Aye said.

Such land prices are roughly on par with the market rate for land located on favorable locations, such as near roads, on the outskirts of Rangoon.

Earlier this year, Muse District authorities approved plans for the 288-acre (115-hectare) Central Economic Zone located on the banks of the Shweli River, which demarcates the Burma-China border. Burmese firms Great Hawkham Public Co Ltd and New Star Light Co Ltd were granted rights to develop the zone, government newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported in June.

New Star Light Company has so far claimed about 200 acres (80 hectare) of land in the project area and offered $25,000 per acre in compensation to affected farmers, said Sai Kyaw, a Muse District farmer who sold his land.

Although this compensation sum is far above the rates that farmers in for instance the Thiliwa Special Economic Zone near Rangoon can expect, Muse residents were still disgruntled because Chinese investors were now offering even higher prices, according to Sai Kyaw.

“New Star Light Company started the project by giving 25 million kyat [$25,600] for each acre of farmland. But now, Chinese people buy the land that is not yet confiscated for the project for 100 million kyats [$105,000],” the farmer complained. “So, the owners of the confiscated farmlands feel really sorry. However, the companies are partly supported by the government. We cannot object to the project.”

Real estate development in Muse Central Economic Zone is said to include hotels, jade trading shops, supermarkets, recreation centers and business towers. A conceptual illustration of the completed project depicts a mix of futuristic high-rise buildings, malls and modern residential areas in the town.

Muse is located on the opposite riverbank of the Chinese border town Ruili, Yunnan Province. It is the country’s most important border trading post and functions as a conduit for the growing trade between Burma and Yunnan Province, which was valued at about $2.7 billion in 2011, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Sai Aik Maung, another local farmer, said he feared he would be forced to part with his farmland because Burmese firms and Chinese businessmen seeking to buy land had the support of local authorities.

He said wanted more than $25,000 per acre as he would be without a livelihood after he sells his land. “We have been farmers ever since the days of our grandparents. Now, even if we cannot continue as farmers, we want to get good prices for our farmlands,” Sai Aik Maung said.

Additional reporting by Paul Vrieze.