RANGOON – Local businessman Micheal Kyaw Myint accused Rangoon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein of violating a land agreement with farmers over nine acres in North Dagon Township.
Micheal Kyaw Myint, a former Karen National Liberation Army – Peace Council member, and high school teacher Daw Chaw Kay Khaing held a press conference in Tamwe Township on Friday over the regional government deciding to allow private construction company Myanmar V-Pile to develop high-rises on land that they claim is rightfully owned by farmer U Ohn Han.
The pair had planned to hold their conference at Rangoon’s Royal Rose restaurant, which later declined after allegedly being pressured by authorities.
Micheal then proceeded to Tamwe where he answered reporter’s questions on public grounds.
Farmer U Ohn Han’s son Ko Thet Min Han also spoke on Friday, stating:
“My father and I are unfamiliar with the laws. So my teacher and employer are helping us recover our land.”
Micheal Kyaw Myint and Daw Chaw Kay Khaing have been trying to help the farmer and his family reclaim their land since the previous administration.
Micheal Kyaw Myint owns small-scale construction company Shwe Lat Than. He intended to develop a housing project with U Ohn Han’s family on the land if the government returned it. Ko Thet Min Han did not elaborate on their agreement.
U Ohn Han and six other farmers owned 33.4 acres of land in North Dagon that was seized in 1990 by the military dictatorship without compensation, according to the divisional Land Confiscation and Investigation Commission.
Many of the farmers fled but later returned to the land after former President U Thein Sein enacted the Farmland Law in 2012 and supported the recommendation to return seized lands on which there had been no development to the original owners.
Some of the 33.4 acres of land had been used to develop housing projects. As of June 2016, nine acres had not been built on but was in phase two of a Myanmar V-Pile construction project.
Daw Chaw Kay Khaing approached the Land Confiscation and Investigation Commission in June 2016 about the land.
The divisional Land Confiscation and Investigation Commission looked into the original owner, and found the nine acres to have been previously owned by U Ohn Han, said North Dagon lawmaker U Naing Zaw Lin.
The committee recommended the return of the land to the farmer.
On May 2, an agreement was reached to return two acres to Daw Tin Tin Myint, who the Yangon City Development Committee currently has listed as the landowner, for no charge, and to sell the other seven acres to U Ohn Han at a government asking price.
However, on May 3, on behalf of Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, Rangoon divisional deputy director Daw Khin Hla Myint stated that the land was not appropriate for use as a paddy field, and as the government joint-venture project was already in progress, it would proceed with compensation provided to the farmers.
“Ko Phyo Min Thein slyly violated his agreement with us,” said Micheal Kyaw Myint.
Micheal Kyaw Myint said he approached the chief minister’s personal friend U Tin Tun to urge him to reconsider. He accused U Tin Tun of asking for 5 million kyats for his recommendation, and Micheal Kyaw Myint said he delivered 1.2 million kyats in early May.
“I will sue U Tin Tun for bribery”, said Micheal Kyaw Myint, showing text messages with U Tin Tun allegedly confirming the transfer of money to a divisional government employee in the chief minister’s office.
The Irrawaddy called U Tin Tun via the phone number shown in the text exchange. He denied Micheal’s accusations, receipt of the money, and any communication between the two via text.
He said it was not unusual for businessmen to have his direct number given his close ties to the chief minister but that he did not accept a bribe.
The Irrawaddy reached out to other government officials regarding the land in question but received no reply at the time of publication.
On Friday evening, the Tamwe police station opened a case against Micheal Kyaw Myint under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Act.