Squatters Allegedly Extort Money from Rangoon Factory Owners

By Thazin Hlaing 3 March 2017

RANGOON — Industrialists in Rangoon’s Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone have complained about alleged extortion by squatters in their factory compounds, blaming authorities for failure to provide sufficient legal protection.

Factory owners held a press conference at the industrial zone in Hlaingtharyar Township on Wednesday, alleging that squatters had occupied vacant spaces inside factory compounds as well as factory entrances and exits, and said that they would not leave unless they were paid.

Some squatters claim land ownership without proper certificates, leveraging loopholes in the system in place to file extortion complaints, said U Nay Lin Zin, secretary of the Shwe Lin Pan industrial management committee.

Daw Yi Yi Mya, manager of Myat Shwe Nadi Co., said that each household that squatted inside her factory compound demanded 15 million kyats (US$11,000) in order to move.

“We have not been able to expand our business because of them. We told them that we would pay compensation if they could show ownership documents but they don’t have any,” she said.

Police Colonel Myo Swe of Rangoon Division urged industrialists to file formal complaint letters to the police.

“If [authorities] don’t provide legal protection, businesses and factories will not be able to operate and this will impact production,” said U Nay Lin Zin.

There are 29 industrial zones in Rangoon Division, and extortion cases have been reported in a number of them since 2014.

Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone factory owners met with squatters, concerned authorities and lawmakers at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Jan. 28 to discuss the issue.

Some owners said they paid between 2.5 million and 120 million kyats after authorities were unable to settle the disputes.

There are around 15 current cases of alleged extortion in Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone, according to the press conference on Wednesday.

U Win Maung, secretary of Rangoon divisional parliament’s bill committee, at the conference said, “Departmental procedures regarding squatters are very weak. It seems that rules and regulations further encourage them to continue.”