Illegally built houses and shops on Mandalay’s state-owned land gets forcefully torn down by police forces and resisted by squatters; a conflict that left both parties injured.
Mandalay city has long been dealing with illegal settlers, crime inducing squatters, and housing issues. The regional government has focused on removing illegal settlements and drug-laden slums to lower crime within the city.
On the 11th of July, Mandalay City Development Council (MCDC) and Mandalay's police forces raided state owned land which had been taken over by squatters. The land between 73rd and Yay Ni Myaung (1) streets in Chan Myae Thar Mandalay New City district had over 250 houses. In response to the forceful demolition of their homes, squatters started throwing rocks at the police forces. The police retaliated by firing shots in order to intimidate and maintain order.
Reportedly, this incident resulted in injuries for 5 police officers and some squatters. Three squatters that threw rocks were also arrested for disturbing of the rule of law.
“I have been living here for six years. Now they have taken away U Zaw Nu and Daw Cho. They have also been living here for a long time. When they tried to stop the police from bulldozing their home, they got arrested. Just like we throw rocks at them, they fired shots at us. Many ran away as they were scared. We are squatters. We already agreed that we would leave and remove our make-shift home. We told the MCDC to wait only a few months because our children in the community are still attending school. But they did not wait. They came in with brute force and completely destroyed the houses without remorse. This to me feels like there is no justice or rule of law,” commented a tenant.
“I am only a farmer. I have been living here since 2001. Actually, we own this 5-acre lot; it is under me and my son’s names. And now, the committee took over the land, without even checking who the land belongs to,” shared Ne Win, a farmer living in the compound.
U Thet Naing Htun, the secretary of MCDC weighs in, “This land is registered under the jurisdiction of the MCDC. It does not matter whether public companies or squatters built these houses, they are building outside their rights. If a squatter started living in your private property—and for a long time—of course you will take action. We are simply clearing out illegal occupation.
We are building towards a prosperous city and we aim to relocate the people driven out of here. The government is implementing housing policies that will provide stability and security to everyone. With this land, we are planning to build and expand roads to alleviate congestion and give remaining lands property grants.”
A mandalay resident comments that in a city where property grants are so disposable, squatters still exist. In a city where squatters build make-shift slums and homes by rivers on private property, the government does not take strong action to remove them. The resident expressed shock at hearing the MCDC took strong action against illegal occupants when it occurs on government owned land
The MCDC explains that occupants in the lot were given two formal notices to leave but they did not comply. Instead, the squatters continued to argue and haggle the terms. The ministry explains that this unacceptable conduct is why strong action was taken and will continue to do so for similar incidents in the future.