Yangon Correspondent: Hundreds of residents stood by and watched, some with tears streaming down their faces, as Myanmar authorities stormed on Tuesday Mingaladon Township, on the outskirts of Yangon, to raze 400 homes illegally constructed on municipal land.
Authorities, bolstered by the presence of riot police, used excavators to destroy the four hundred huts and houses belonging to the impoverished families, most of whom had settled in the northernmost township in recent years amid a scarcity of affordable housing in the 5.2 million-strong urban center.
“The government creates no affordable housing for low-income families. They become squatters when they cannot afford to pay rent,” said Zin Min, an independent researcher on slum areas of the capital, which he says now has about 500,000 squatters occupying abandoned or unused land without legal ownership, according to local newspaper Eleven Myanmar.
Myanmar authorities had given notice to the Mingaladon Township community to leave their homes before midnight on Jan. 25.
They had warned the people that if they did not move, police would use force to raze their homes the following morning.
According to a Yangon resident, many of the Mingaladon occupants settled in the area in 2008 after the deadly Cyclone Nargis raged across the Irrawaddy Delta, destroying their homes and killing around 138,000 people.
“Some of the people settled in Mingaladon Township and planted vegetables on the land. After that, more continued to arrive and build homes, but they have no official ownership documents for the land,” the resident said.
Authorities say they will use the land for an industrial project, but the details have not yet been disclosed.
Mingaladon Township is located on the periphery of the former capital in an industrial zone – which also houses the Myanmar Brewery, a national beer manufacturing company – and belongs to municipal authorities.
Meanwhile, the community members – most of whom are low-income earners toiling in garment factories or manual labor jobs – say they do not have anywhere to go.
With rent for a room in nearby areas costing 10,000 kyat for one person ($8) per month, a five-member family would have to pay 50,000 kyat ($40) – which families say is more than they can afford.
The majority of the population in Myanmar survives on an annual income of less than $200, or $16 per month, according to data from the US State Department.