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New homes not good enough say displaced Chin villagers

Residents of Hakha staged a peaceful protest on Tuesday. (PHOTO: Chin World)

Displaced residents of the landslide-rocked Chin State capital of Hakha took to the streets in protest on Tuesday, enraged over what that say is inadequate replacement housing.

Six neighbourhoods in Hakha required total relocation after flooding and landslides hit the mountainside town in July and August last year. Footage captured by villagers at the time showed houses collapsing on top of each other and sliding off sharp ridges. Large sections of Hakha have since been determined as uninhabitable by seismologists.

Naypyidaw introduced a plan following geological surveys to relocate over 700 homes to an area along the Nam Haung Kam mountain range. To date, around 100 new houses have been built in the area and 30 households resettled.

Now, however, relocated residents are complaining the new villages are dangerous and difficult to access.

On Tuesday, the protestors marched via the main road across the town, taking aim at the construction companies contracted by the government to build new settlements. Demonstrators say the companies failed to meet initial promises including the construction of transport routes.

Protest leader Hlaing Jones said the new home locations were not satisfactory.

“We think the locations for our new homes are not adequate enough for human settlement and moreover, the roads were built poorly – the condition of the new homes is not the main problem. The main problem is that the roads to the new settlements are very steep and narrow,” Hlaing Jones said.

“They promised us urban development but these areas are hard to reach even by motorcycle as the roads are too steep to the point where it is even impossible to haul a bag of rice on the bike. They promised the road will be 80 feet wide and that we would be provided 80 by 60 feet replacement land plots but we didn’t get that either.”

Large swathes of Chin State were left devastated by last year’s monsoonal disaster. Floods and landslides across Burma claimed the lives of over 117 people, forced 1.6 million from their homes and destroyed some 800,000 acres of farmland, according to Naypyidaw.

Chin State is regarded as Burma’s poorest and least developed region, making restoration efforts particularly difficult.