Burma

Myanmar Heads of State, Ministers Acquire Land in Capital

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—Government spokesman U Zaw Htay confirmed reports on social media that the president, the State Counselor and ministers have acquired land plots in Naypyitaw but denied that the plots are large.

Reports spread recently on social media that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has acquired four acres of land and that President U Win Myint, former President U Htin Kyaw, Vice-President Henry Van Thio, Union Government Office Minister U Min Thu and State Counselor Office Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe have all acquired plots measuring 700 by 500 feet (32,516 square meters).

When asked by The Irrawaddy at a press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday, U Zaw Htay confirmed the list of cabinet members who have acquired land, but said the sizes of the plots they have acquired are actually much smaller than rumored.

The president and the State Counselor have each acquired 400 square feet, while Union ministers have 300 square feet and deputy ministers have 250 square feet, he said. He added that the rumored size of 700 by 500 feet, claimed on social media, is equivalent to around eight acres.

“It must be a disinformation campaign as the 2020 election approaches. There will be more such campaigns. We think there is a political motive behind it,” said U Zaw Htay.

The land plots were prepared for use by the Naypyitaw Development Committee in Ottarathiri Township and sold to Union-level ministers and those in higher positions at fixed prices following their land purchase applications, the government spokesman said.

“[Land plots] are sold at prices set by the Naypyitaw Development Committee. The president, our State Counselor, U Kyaw Tint Swe and so on. The list of people spread on social media is correct, but the measurements of their lands are exaggerated,” he said.

He refused to say how much the land sold for and requested that reporters ask the Naypyitaw Development Committee. The Irrawaddy has not been able to contact the officials on the committee.

The spokesperson of the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Dr. Nanda Hla Myint, said the acquisition of lands by government officials in Naypyitaw is not a problem because during military rule, generals acquired land permits and car import permits. He added that ministers, deputy ministers and directors-general were given land plots under the USDP government.

“The problem is that they talked big. They said the generals and the USDP did this, but that they wouldn’t when they assumed office. They said they wouldn’t accept these [perks] and take advantage, and that they would only serve the interests of the country. But then they are not as good as their words. They follow in the tradition of their predecessors,” said Dr. Nanda Hla Myint.

In 2018, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi bought more than 90 acres of land in the capital’s Ottarathiri Township for 700 million kyats (US$444,000) for her Daw Khin Kyi Foundation to open a vocational training school and establish a forest.

The land itself cost 5 million kyats per acre and the land permit cost another 40 kyats per square foot.

The site sits near Raja Thingaha Housing 2 and the Ocean Supercenter shopping complex. Raja Thingaha Housing 1 and 2 were developed by the USDP government for its ministers, deputy ministers, Union-level officials and directors-general.

The new land plots acquired by officials in the current National League for Democracy government are adjacent to the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation site and are worth hundreds of millions of kyats, according to market prices.

In the neighborhood in question, 100 square feet of land usually sells for between 80 million and 100 million kyats (US$57,400 to $71,750) and 150 square feet of land is worth over 200 million kyats, plus another 50 million kyats for a house, according to U Nanda Kyaw, director of the Naypyitaw-based Zayyar real estate agency.

However, any non-governmental organization (NGO) can apply to buy land for 5 million kyats (US$3,588) per acre in Naypyitaw. So far 24 NGOs, including Daw Khin Kyi Foundation and the USDP, have purchased plots in five Naypyitaw townships.

The NGOs that have purchased land include the Yangon City Development Committee, Mandalay City Development Committee, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), Myanmar Fisheries Federation, the Myanmar Red Cross Society and the Myanmar Livestock Federation.

“Lands were also sold for the USDP Headquarters and the Myanmar War Veterans Organization, at 5 million kyats per acre,” said U Zaw Htay.

He added that more plots are now being reclaimed to sell to ministers who have not yet acquired land.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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