Around 1,500 police and plain-clothed individuals demolished more than 500 households in Kon Ta La Paung village in Rangoon’s Pyinmabin Industrial Zone on Tuesday morning, alleging that the inhabitants were squatters.
The demolition left more than 2,000 people in Mingaladon Township homeless, local residents told The Irrawaddy.
Uniformed police and people wearing blue hard hats—who appeared to be civilians—destroyed houses, fences and farms with sticks, swords and bulldozers, while some residents reportedly dismantled their own homes to salvage materials.
The ownership of the land was not immediately clear, but local residents say they have been living there for at least 15 years. According to a Wednesday article in the Myanmar Times, Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Ltd. claims to have a long-term lease on the area.
“President U Thein Sein has said that those who have lived in a place for more than five years are not squatters,” said Aye Shwe, who spoke to The Irrawaddy after her house was demolished in the raid. “But now our houses are destroyed.”
“Police whose motto is ‘may I help you’ are also the people who destroyed our homes,” she added.
Locals told The Irrawaddy that on Jan. 25 they met with members of the military, representatives from Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Ltd. and the township’s general administration department.
According to those who attended the meeting, Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe instructed police to remove Kon Ta La Paung’s houses if the residents failed to move that day.
“We’ve been living here since some 30 years ago when the land was still full of bushes,” said Aung Ko Oo whose house was also demolished. “We’ve submitted a petition to the ministries, but despite a reply that they have received the petition, they have done nothing.”
The Mingaladon Township General Administration Department issued a notice dated Jan. 17, asking those living there to leave along with their belongings. The notice did not specify a deadline for moving, but stated that squats will continue to be removed even under the next government, which is set to take office in early April.
On January 24, around 200 shelters met the same fate in wards 61, 73, 74 and 75 of Rangoon’s Dagon Seikkan Township, leaving hundreds of people homeless.
Meanwhile, the Kyauktan Township General Administration Department has issued a similar notice to that in Mingaladon, asking that squats be abandoned in several wards and on the construction site of the Japan-backed Thilawa Special Economic Zone.
Translation by Thet Ko Ko.