Gov't Says Most Locals Support Ex-Dictator's Son's Inle Lake Hotel Project

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 December 2018

NAYPYITAW — The President’s Office claims that most residents of a township along Shan State’s famed Inle Lake are in favor of a hotel project by the son of former dictator Than Shwe.

In September, the President’s Office received a petition signed by more than 4,000 lakeside residents opposing plans by the Myanmar Naing Group, owned by U Tun Naing Shwe, to build a hotel on 90 acres of land by the lake in Mai Thaut Village, Yawnghwe Township.

The following month, on orders from the President’s Office, a team of local government officials and lawmakers launched an inspection of the project.

“When the team made a field inspection, they found that the majority supported [the project] and only a minority opposed it,” the director-general of the President’s Office, U Zaw Htay, told reporters in Naypyitaw on Saturday.

He added that the team had not yet submitted its final report, however.

The team conducted a petition drive for the project and collected more than 15,000 signatures in the 12 villages of Yawnghwe Township.

But according to project opponents, people only signed the government’s petition on the condition that the hotel does not have any negative environmental impacts on the lake.

One of the opponents, U Htein Lwin, of Mongthawk Village, accused those who signed the government’s petition of doing so out of personal interests.

The company acquired the 90 acres on a former wildlife sanctuary along the lakeshore while Senior General Than Shwe was still in office but did not move forward on the hotel project for five years. It submitted a building permit request in 2016 but soon met resistance from local residents. When the company resubmitted the request in June of this year, opponent organized their petition and submitted it to several government offices.

In October, the Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Ministry said the 90 acres should be turned back into a wildlife sanctuary, as opponents want.

Opponents say there are already 14 hotels along or near Inle Lake and that the hotel zone covers some 600 acres.

In June 2015, Inle Lake was added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and became the first ever biosphere reserve in Myanmar. In September it was designated the fifth of Myanmar’s Wetlands of International Importance as defined by the Ramsar Convention.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.