Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Land return was not campaigning: minister

Mandalay Region Chief Minister U Ye Myint has denied accusations that he returned confiscated land to farmers in Pyin Oo Lwin in order to help his chances of re-election.

Mandalay Region Chief Minster U Ye Myint. (Khin Su Wai/The Myanmar Times)Mandalay Region Chief Minster U Ye Myint. (Khin Su Wai/The Myanmar Times)

About 400 out of thousands of acres taken for three military projects in U Ye Myint’s constituency has been returned to farmers in recent months, fuelling accusations that the process is politically motivated.

But U Ye Myint said the return of the land was in line with the law and not connected to the election. Farmers had also been told that they would get the land regardless of who they vote for.

“It is the government procedure [to return the land]. It is not to do with campaigning. I already discussed with the locals for the confiscated land area and will try to give back as much as we can. Now we have already given back 300 to 400 acres,” he told The Myanmar Times.

One farmer in the area said in an earlier interview that the return of the land had backfired on U Ye Myint, because locals thought it was just designed to win votes.

“Nobody thanked him for that because the villagers fought each other to decide who should get this land,” said U Aung Min, a farmer from Aung Chan Thar village in Pyin Oo Lwin.

But the chief minister may not need the farmers’ support. He won the seat easily in 2010 for the Union Solidarity and Development Party against a candidate from the National Unity Party and on November 8 will face only two opponents: one from the National League for Democracy and another from the NUP.

Importantly, Pyin Oo Lwin 2 constituency has a large proportion of military personnel, who are expected to vote in favour of the chief minister.

He said that he would not target military staff and their families during his campaign events.

“But when I campaign in Pyin Oo Lwin, some households from the military may be present,” he said.

He urged voters to give him another five years in the Mandalay Region Hluttaw – and possibly as chief minister, if the new president appoints him – so that he could work for the area’s development.

“What I can promise residents is that I can change their future. We will change their lives together after the election. We have many things to change in politics, society and economics. We haven’t finished all of the changes yet. We need to keep going,” he said. “I can [say] that I always did the best thing for locals.”