Yangon shanty towns defy chief minister’s order

And still they come: Yangon Region authorities are fighting a running battle against the constant proliferation of illegal shanties, which have continued to spring up overnight despite a city ordinance that any new unofficial residents will be arrested.

Most of the new shanties can be found in Hlaing Tharyar township, whose industrial zones are a magnet for unemployed workers across the country.

The newcomers could also be encouraged by the public commitment of Yangon’s National League for Democracy not to resort to the policies of its predecessor, which bulldozed unofficial homes under the gaze of armed police.

Hlaing Tharyar Township Development Committee administrator U Khin Maung Gyi told The Myanmar Times yesterday, “We demolish new tents wherever they are reported, but don’t touch existing tents. Most of them go up at night, and we knock them down when they are reported,” he said, calling on township residents to keep the authorities informed.

As of May 30, about 110 tents had been removed following complaints by residents.

“They come in and put up tents after dark, sometimes 20 or 30 in one night. People took notice when the chief minister of Yangon Region said squatters would not be removed by violence, and some of them are expanding their living space,” said former Hlaing Tharyar Township Development Committee chair U Kyi Soe.

The tents cluster thickly along the Yangon-Pathein Road, while Hlaing Tharyar is the biggest township in the country by population. The population density has caused blockages in Taryarkone, Shwe Lin Pan, Ingaline and Sultan creeks, and fights are commonplace.

Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein said no more squatters would be allowed after May 25 while a headcount proceeds.

The regional government estimates that there are more than 430,000 unofficial residents in Yangon Region, including 157,400 in Eastern Yangon district, 93,000 in Southern Yangon, 8100 in Western Yangon and 170,000 in Northern Yangon district. Other accounts have put the number far higher, and say the previous administration’s habit of violent evictions created a new breed of “roadside squatters”.

Of the 26 industrial zones in Yangon Region, nine are located in Hlaing Tharyar, providing jobs to more than 300,000 workers.

One unofficial resident, Ko San Shay, said, “There are more tents every day, and the city development committee can’t seem to remove them. Established squatters get worried when the new ones arrive. We feel people look down on us.”


Source: Myanmar Times

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