Thu 3 Oct 2013
Filed under: Human Rights,Inside Burma,News
Protesters are occupying a prominent park in downtown Yangon, seeking the return of land they claim was unlawfully taken from their ancestors by former government officials.
A group of 600 protesters from Mi-KyaungKan Wards 1, 2 and 3 in Thin GanKyun Township have established a sit-in camp at MahaBandoola Park in downtown Yangon. The protesters first took up their position around noon on Wednesday, with the goal of reclaiming ancestral land.
Yangon Military Command is accused of confiscating the land in 1991 and renting the plots to gardeners and other farmers.Recently, following the eviction tenants from the area, the Cantonment Municipal Department erected a fence around the plot.
“We are sitting down here to get back our ancestral land. We, the people from Mi-KyaungKan Ward, are going to continue the protest camp until we get a satisfactory answer,” said U Sein Than, one of the protesters.
After learning of the sit-in protest, Yangon Region Minister for Security, Col. Tin Win, came to City Hall – near the site of the protest camp – yesterday afternoon and met with officials and representatives from the protesters.
“They (the authorities) said that they confiscated the land as it is deemed a slum area, and they have compensated the residents with land grants. Since our ancestors were illiterates or with little education, they were content with what they got. They thought they owned the land after their homes were assigned with house numbers. The authorities have ordered us to close the sit-in camp. Otherwise, they will take action against the protesters,” said KoAungMyo Win, one of the representatives who attended the meeting with Col. Tin Win.
In a separate address to the media, Col. Tin Win said, “The government needs proof and asks the protesters to come forward with evidence, in writing, and the authority will forward the case. Don’t do illegal activities, since the authorities are considering all cases in a legal manner. The authorities can assist if the demand is processed legally. There is a team consisting of legal personnel and housing and property officials. If the protesters actually owned the land, we must reexamine the case. The land was previously owned by the Railway Department. Some of them have never been honored with land grants.”
This is the first attempt by the group of protesters to utilize a sit-in to try and win backthe disputed land. However, landowners from Mi-KyaungKan Wards 1, 2 and 3 have on seven previous occasions organized peaceful protests with the same goal.
The protesters say they will continue their sit-in until their demands are met.