News / Asia

    Slum Eviction Illustrates Suu Kyi's Military Challenge in Myanmar

    Members of a homeless family pass the time in their temporary shelter beside a street in Yangon, Myanmar,  Feb. 4, 2016.
    Members of a homeless family pass the time in their temporary shelter beside a street in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 4, 2016.
    Reuters

    Days before democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi led her lawmakers into parliament as Myanmar's government-in-waiting, Ei Than watched bulldozers sent by the military destroy her house in a slum on the outskirts of Yangon.

    Ei Than was one of about 2,500 people thrown off military-owned land at Mingaladon in a mass eviction that gives a glimpse into the challenges Suu Kyi faces in sharing power with the armed forces after nearly 50 years of iron-fisted junta rule.

    The land, on the edge of the commercial capital, is owned by Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a sprawling, military-owned conglomerate that entrenches the armed forces' grip over swaths of one of Southeast Asia's fastest-growing economies.

    Suu Kyi's party won a resounding election victory last November, but must still work with the military because of its continued hold over key cogs of the government machinery.

    During the 20 years Ei Than had lived on the land, she had no idea it was owned by the military. Like many migrants to the country's biggest city, she built her house on vacant land.

    "It was just scrub and bushes when we moved here," she said, breastfeeding an infant in a flimsy shelter covered in plastic sheeting that was erected nearby after the eviction.

    Colonel Tin Aung Tun, minister of security and border affairs for the Yangon Regional Government, said he did not know what the land, surrounded by an industrial park housing many military-owned manufacturing plants, would be used for.

    "These lands belong to the government," said the colonel, who, as the senior military official responsible for the area, oversaw the evictions. "I had to carry out my duty."

    He said those evicted had been offered food, water and temporary shelter at a nearby paint plant. Some had moved to the site only recently in the hope of compensation, he added.

    Land grabs

    The eviction at Mingaladon took place January 26, less than a week before winning election candidates from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) were sworn in as lawmakers. When a lengthy transition is completed by the end of March, they will form the party's first majority government.

    Land disputes are a difficult legacy of military rule.

    Rights activists have accused the military and army-linked enterprises of numerous land grabs in recent years.

    The NLD has for years worked to support those who have faced forcible evictions, and is compiling a list of land disputes. It is unclear how the party plans to resolve such disputes, given the likely military opposition.

    Local NLD members believe the military timed the Mingaladon eviction to avoid any potential opposition from the new government.

    "I think they wanted to get this done before the transition," said Nyunt May Tha, chairperson of the NLD in Mingaladon Township, whose son now sits in parliament.

    MEHL is one of two powerful military business empires that account for a large chunk of the economy and are involved in everything from growing tea, manufacturing cigarettes and brewing beer to jade mining and banking. They help fund the military and the pensions and welfare provided to former soldiers, but they do not make their accounts public, and their revenues are not shared with the government.

    Major Win Myint, manager at the nearby MEHL-owned Myanandar water purification plant, told Reuters the firm owned the land but said he did not know what plans the military company had to develop it.

    A local government official declined to comment beyond confirming that the land belonged to MEHL.

    MEHL did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment on the eviction and what it planned to do with the land.

    Speedy evictions

    Myanmar's junta-drafted 2008 constitution reserves a quarter of seats in parliament for the armed forces, along with control of home affairs, defense and border affairs ministries, whose ministers are chosen by the army chief, not the president.

    The Mingaladon evictions were carried out by the General Administration Department (GAD), which runs unelected local governments and reports to the home affairs ministry, according to a copy of the order seen by Reuters.

    The day after the order to vacate expired, bulldozers arrived. With them were about 200 policemen and around four times as many other men, some carrying sticks, according to a Reuters witness.

    "Nothing can be done while the military is still in charge of the General Administration Department," said Nyunt May Tha. "We'll only be able to get over this if Daw Suu Kyi can talk to the military and fix it."

    Government officials told the newly homeless people they would receive compensation and be rehoused. But two weeks after the eviction, those Reuters spoke to said they had received no help.

    Hundreds of rickety shelters line a track running through a nearby industrial park. Inside, people cook on portable stoves and eat and talk by candlelight. Some say they moved to Yangon after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar's central delta in 2008.

    The few possessions Ei Than owns are scattered on the floor, where a dozen dusty children crowd around a portable DVD player. "We are sad, we have nothing," she said. "We don't know if we will get any help or not."

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora