Tanintharyi Land Protest Canceled at Last Minute

By Hintharnee 19 October 2017

MAWLAMYINE, Mon State — Some 200 demonstrators canceled a protest against Tanintharyi Region’s chief minister, agriculture and irrigation minister and municipal minister over land confiscation for Dawei Urban Development Project at the last minute on Wednesday morning.

At first demonstrators refused to disperse though police discouraged them from staging a protest, saying that the placards and slogans prepared by the demonstrators are against the peaceful assembly and procession law.

The placards labeled the Tanintharyi Region government inefficient and also called for the resignations of the chief minister and two other ministers.

“At the last minute, we protest leaders negotiated with participants and decided to cancel the protest in consideration of regional law and order. We decided not to stage the protest because we were not allowed to hold those placards,” Ma Yi Yi Htwe, a protest leader told The Irrawaddy.

Police put barriers to stop protestors. (Photo: Nyan Hline)

The placards reflect the voices of farmers and people and protestors decided not to stage a protest without those placards, she said.

The regional government said that over 350 acres of land in what is now the Dawei Urban Development Project area were confiscated for government ownership since 1990, but farmers said they paid to farm the land until 2011.

The U Thein Sein government leased out the land to private companies to build government buildings, residential apartments and shopping centers in an urban development project, leading to clashes between the authorities, company employees and local farmers.

The Tanintharyi regional government said in a statement on Sept. 17, 2017 that 40 by 60 foot plots of land in other locations have been recompensed to 63 of 70 farmers whose farmlands are in the urban development project area.

The statement also said the regional government would recompense land plots for the seven remaining farmers. However, the farmers have refused to accept land compensation, and called for talks with the government and private companies.

The government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) continued leasing out farmlands to private businesspeople though local farmers hoped that it would return those lands instead, said Ma Yi Yi Htwe.

“Chief minister Dr. Lei Lei Maw, and the agricultural and municipal ministers are mainly responsible for this. So, we planned to stage a demonstration to call for their resignation,” said Ma Yi Yi Htwe.

Dawei Public Development Co has won most of the contracts for property development on the controversial lands and has been building residences for ministers, apartments for parliament staff, and residential buildings. About 20 farmers have been sued in clashes with company employees since construction started, according to Ma Yi Yi Htwe.

The Irrawaddy was not able to contact concerned police officers, lawmakers and the speaker of the regional parliament for their remarks.