Rangoon Seaport Project Leaves Families in a Bind

By Lawi Weng 15 January 2013

RANGOON—With his wife and two children, Myint Than sleeps in a small hut west of Burma’s biggest city, without a door or walls to protect them from the cold chill at night.

They moved here after being forced out of their home in September, when the government sold the land where they were staying to the Myanmar Industrial Port construction company for a seaport project in Ahlone Township.

Myint Than and about 20 other families have been living illegally on this land west of Rangoon since then, but the construction company says they must move by April.

“I’m praying that April won’t come, because I don’t know yet where we’ll go,” said 32-year-old Myint Than.

The port will cover about 50 acres, with its construction requiring labor from about 200 workers.

The area was previously used as a location for the Rangoon municipality to dump trash, though about 20 families had built makeshift homes there.

Myint Than moved here with his older brother after Cyclone Nargis destroyed their village, Tha Nyi, in the Irrawaddy Delta’s Kyaik Latt Township, in 2008.

The brothers went to Rangoon looking for employment, but Myint Than said the seaport project may force them back to their old village.

He said he was afraid to return, as most other villagers left Tha Nyi five years ago and he did not know what conditions would be like.

“We’re trying to see whether we can rent a small hut, but if not, we might have to go back to our village,” Myint Than said.

His older brother, Aung Naing, said he wanted to ask the government for assistance finding a new home.

“It won’t be difficult to survive after we have a place to stay, because we can find a job anywhere,” he said.