Officials in Mandalay Region’s Amarapura township have rejected an application from villagers seeking to legally protest over the Ministry of Construction’s refusal to return their land, which was confiscated in 2001 for the Yadanarpon Bridge construction project.
The villagers say they were told the land would be returned if it was not used for the bridge but the ministry has since built housing on the site.
Residents of Thapyay Tan village said that more than 50 acres from three villages was confiscated in 2001 and the residents shifted to a floodplain, where they can only live for half to one-third of the year.
“We submitted an application to demonstrate to the Amarapura Township Police Station on [Thursday] November 15. However, officials rejected it on November 18. They gave us a chance to appeal and we will try to do that,” Thapyay Tan residents Daw Khin Mar and Daw Saw Win Khaing said on Tuesday, November 20.
Officials said in the rejection letter that the land the villagers want to be returned has been officially transferred to Public Works department of Special Project 2 under the Ministry of Construction.
Meanwhile, the site where villagers had asked to demonstrate was under the bridge and that could not be allowed for security reasons.
“There’s no work for us where we live now on the floodplain. We had to destroy our perennial crops before we moved but got no compensation. There are no streets and no electricity in our new villages and we have no way to survive. Even to get to our village from the Mandalay-Sagaing Road we need to pay K3000 to take a bullock cart,” Daw Khin Mar said.
When the water level of the Ayeyarwady River rises during rainy season, the new villages are flooded and residents have to shift to living beside the Mandalay-Sagaing Road for several months.
Daw Khin Mar said some residents were in debt and had lost their land because they couldn’t find any work to cover their living costs.
Villagers sent letters to the Rule of Law, Peace and Stability Committee chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the parliament’s land investigation commission and the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in the last week of September to explain their grievances, and officials from Amarapura township’s general administrative office met some of the villagers in the second week of November to discuss their letter.