Rangoon MP Raises Questions About Previous Govt’s Land Leases

By Moe Myint 19 October 2016

RANGOON – Near the end of his tenure as Rangoon’s chief minister, U Myint Swe—now serving as Union Vice President (1)—issued 232 land lease contracts to private companies at special rates; local lawmaker has raised questions about why information about these initiatives appears to have been blacked out.

National League for Democracy (NLD) regional legislator U Nay Phone Latt—also known as U Nay Myo Kyaw—asked during Wednesday’s parliament session about the rental rates decided upon for these projects during 2015-2016 fiscal year, and called for the agreement between the previous government and the companies involved to be unveiled.

He claimed that such land leasing practices had occurred not only in Rangoon but also in Mandalay Division. When a Mandalay NLD lawmaker proposed that the parliament scrutinize these non-transparent projects, the move was approved and an investigative committee was formed.

Like Mandalay, he said, Rangoon also needs to examine whether public lands were involved in the dealings.

“Will the Rangoon government review these projects?” asked U Nay Phone Latt. “If the government has a plan to check, when would it inform the parliament of the findings? If there is no plan to inform us, let me know why.”

Rangoon Mayor U Maung Maung Soe said, “We don’t have plan to cancel 232 land [contracts],” and described the projects as “impossible to shelve.”

He added that the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) would carry out an inspection, but that challenges remain, as the land was given out in individual deals under the previous government.

U Nay Phone Latt again stated: “We want to know the land types involved in the 232 [projects] and who they were given to.”

Arguably brushing off the MP’s inquiry, the mayor said the question had been answered.

After the parliamentary session, U Nay Phone Latt told reporters that he felt the mayor had ignored his question as to how much profit the government gets from land leases.

“We know nothing of such information,” he said.

MP U Nay Phone Latt said he believed that YCDC might have the list of lands leased in this manner, although the mayor declined to comment on these details in parliament. Both citizens and lawmakers have the right to know the activities of the government, he added, and said that he would continue to try to learn more about the case.