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Seven Charged Over Inle Lake Hotel Zone Protest

Originally appeared in The Myanmar Times

February 25, 2013

Inle Hotel Zone Protest 20 Feb 2013 © Khine Sabei Nyein/The Myanmar TimesVillagers who say the government confiscated their land to build a hotel complex in Nyaungshwe township, Shan State, have been charged with obstruction following a protest demonstration. If convicted, they face up to six months in prison or a fine.

Seven local residents face charges in Nyaungshwe township, near Taunggyi and the major tourist destination of Inle Lake, where land is being cleared for the hotel zone. They are U Zaw Min, U Thein Tun Oo, Daw Khin Win, U Kyaw Sein, U Aung Myint, U Chway Gal and U Aung Kyaw Myo from Inngyinkon and Kanbe villages. Nyaungshwe township administrator U Soe Win Maung accused them of incitement to impede administrative tasks.

“Nanpan police station filed a lawsuit charging impediment to official duty. We were among those who signed a bond today. It has come to our knowledge today that we were charged,” said U Aung Myint of Kanbe village.

The villagers deny defying the administrator’s order, or objecting to the hotel zone development, but claim the land belonged to them, and demand compensation so they can earn their living, according to farmers from Kanbe and Inngyinkone villages who spoke to The Myanmar Times on February 18.

“Why did they say that the land was not owned by us after awarding compensation for crops? We have all the receipts for making tax payments for the lease grant,” said one of the accused.

On February 14, village administrator U Nyo Tin, as well as Minister for Livestock and Fisheries U Ohn Myint and Hotels and Tourism Minister U Htay Aung met villagers claiming compensation of K40 million an acre for firewood land and K100 million an acre for farmland.

The fisheries minister said he would forward the matter to his superiors, and on February 20 negotiations with the villagers resumed.

“Nyaungshwe township’s administrator shouldn’t have filed suit while negotiations were in progress. Now the accused face a fine or six months’ imprisonment. People are aggrieved,” said advocate Daw Nan Thuzar, who represents the seven villagers.

On February 18, more than 100 villagers demonstrated in favour of the seven before the township court.

“We came from Kanbe and Inngyinkone villages. Though all the villagers from both villages staged a demonstration, only seven people were sued. We have no idea why. Therefore we came here to be sued like them. There are more than 100 of us. We don’t object to the construction of hotel zone but want to regain our land or equivalent replacement,” Daw Sein Myint of Inngyinkone told The Myanmar Times.

“We would be prepared to accept equivalent compensation. But they haven’t made an offer. We didn’t touch our legacy, no matter how difficult life was for us.

“We didn’t sell the land – they acquired it. We are very sad about it. It is difficult to shift from one livelihood to another. Our children’s education and our families’ health totally depend on this land. Now we are confused and depressed. It would be nice if they would arrange for us to move elsewhere and have a livelihood there. We expect a sympathetic hearing from them,” said Daw Sein Myint, whose 50 acres of firewood land and farmland were acquired to make way for the hotel zone.

Farmer Ko Nyi Nyi Zaw, of Kenbe village, said no lawsuit for obstruction should have been filed as long as compensation negotiations were in progress.

“My 14 acres was among the land acquired. I haven’t yet accepted compensation. I paid the market price for the land, and that should be take into account,” he said.

U Moe of Taunggyi-based Shan State Generation Force, told The Myanmar Times: “What is important is to negotiate in a conciliatory manner. If the farmers’ livelihood is guaranteed, it will pay off. The government should listen to the people’s voice. Negotiation is of prime importance in this regard. Can they live the rest of life with such a paltry amount of K0.3 million? If laws and powers are used instead of negotiation, it will bring adverse effects to the region. If so, it will be detrimental to the way the president is going.”

“Village administrators asked us to accept the compensation offered. In one case, of land jointly owned by brother and sister, a village administrator forced the younger to accept K1.2 million for 4 acres of land without the knowledge of the older. Both owners were frustrated and didn’t want to accept. It shouldn’t have been done like that,” said one resident.

Land was acquired for the hotel zone in the villages of Kanbe, Inngyinkone, Chaungba, Phayarphyu, Watthakai, and Nyaunwun.

“Sixty-five villagers from other villages have accepted crop compensation, but in Kanbe and Inngyikone, there are 18 who haven’t. There are a lot of firewood plantation owners who were not given compensation,” said U Aung Myint of Kanbe village.

View the original article here. 

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This post is in: People's Voices

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