Residents fighting a decades-old battle for compensation for land they say they were driven from by the military in the eastern part of Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon have stepped up their protests, saying they are prepared to confront the authorities until their last breath.
The protesters, who lived in the Migyaungkan area of the city’s Thingangkuun township until they were forced from their homes in 1991 during the previous military junta rule, gathered for a fresh demonstration on Monday following the arrest last week of several of their members.
“We have pledged to fight to the death because no government official has … responded to our demands,” protester Nay New Than told RFA’s Myanmar Service as the demonstrators established a fresh protest camp as a focal point to champion the issue.
They claim the military seized their ancestral land and forced them to relocate to fringe areas of the city, including to North and South Dagon Myothit townships and an area close to the Bago Yoma forest in neighboring Bago region.
They are demanding that the authorities stop further construction on the disputed land—where luxury buildings have been put up among other projects—and resolve the dispute as soon as possible, and release those jailed for demonstrating over the issue.
Their call prompted a visit from Colonel Tin Win, the Yangon Region Border and Security Affairs Minister, who met with protest leaders at the Thingangkuun administrative office, asking them to close the protest camp and to proceed with their protest within the bounds of the law.
Several protesters have been held since the group started staging protests in October, including protest leader Sein Than who was held last week for demonstrating without a permit.
A round-the-clock protest near City Hall in downtown Yangon last month ended after three days following the intervention of two lawmakers from parliament’s land dispute investigation commission, according to the Myanmar Times.
Last week, some 300 protesters marched from a high school to the Myasaryanaye Stupa in Thingangkuun, many of them carrying placards demanding the return of their land, the Myanmar Eleven media group reported.
According to the protestors, some senior military officers and their business cronies are living in luxury buildings in Migyaungkan Ward 3, it reported.
Reported by Kyaw Zaw Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.