Thursday, 14 February 2013 12:04 Kun Chan
More than 2,000 people who have been living in a neighborhood in Bago [Pegu]—some for more than 40 years—have been ordered to leave before March 1 or else face a one-month prison sentence.
Residents told Mizzima that Bago district administrative authorities delivered a written order on January 28 to all 900 households in Quarter 9 of Oktha Myothit Township to leave the quarter no later than March 1.
Then, the residents were summoned to a meeting on February 7 when representatives of the local administration read out the order and reinforced the point that the residents had no option than to vacate their homes and move elsewhere.
“They ordered all of us to leave, saying we are living illegally on this land like squatters,” said Lin Naing Oo. “The deputy district chief said that if we fail to move, we will be sentenced to one month in prison.”
The January 28 letter, signed by the district chief, said that the Quarter 9 residents are living on land formerly owned by the Industry Ministry No. 1. It said that the 1,725.77-acre plot of land has now been transferred to the local authorities as a site for development projects.
The written order said that if the people fail to move, they may be charged under Section 21 (1) of the Lower Burma Town and Village Lands Act, which carries s sentence of one month in jail.
Bago authorities have offered the residents a new plot to resettle nearby in Quarter No. 8 of the township. Residents said that the new site is close to the Shinsaung garment factory, a major employer in the area. However, local sources told Mizzima that no resident agreed to sign the eviction notice.
According to several residents, the Quarter 9 neighborhood was settled about 40 years ago, at a time when the rest of Oktha Myothit had not been built. Most of the new settlers took up farming and gardening as livelihoods.
Oktha Myothit was established by the former military junta after 1998 when local planners built residential areas, a bus station, factories and an industrial estate.
On February 10, popular human-rights activist Su Su Nway visited Quarter 9 and spoke to the residents.
“These people have lived here for more than 40 years ago,” she said. “They do not want to leave their homes. I told them to sign a petition which I would submit to the authorities. I will stay here on March 1 to help guard the neighborhood.”
An official at the Bago district administrative office confirmed to Mizzima that the houses in Quarter 9 were to be torn down.
Lin Naing Oo said that she and other residents will hold a press conference at the industrial estate in Oktha Myothit on February 16.