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Shop owners evicted in north Rangoon

Shop owners in Rangoon's Mayangone Township are forced to move out of their premises, 13 August 2016. (PHOTO: DVB)

A number of shop owners were evicted on Saturday from their stores and business premises near the Chawdwingon intersection in northern Rangoon’s Mayangone Township.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has been urging the shop owners to vacate the land since 2013, claiming that the area is owned by the government. But its warnings fell on deaf ears. Last week, the ministry issued a 13 August deadline or face eviction by force.

Aung Ko Latt, owner of Ko Latt Gas Stoves Store, said, “We never thought the government that we elected would do anything like this to us. This morning, the police showed up alongside municipal officials and announced on loudspeakers that we had one hour to vacate the premises, after which we would be forcibly evicted under the 1955 Government Building Eviction Act.

“We refused to budge,” he continued. “Then, an hour later, they marched in and took away all our merchandise, and piled it all up on the pavement. They then told us we had until 12 noon to clear it away or else the municipality would confiscate everything.”

Aung Ko Latt said he had run his shop at that location for more than 17 years.

“Our family opened this shop here 17 years ago. Back then, there weren’t that many stores,” he told DVB. “The street was quiet. About one vehicle an hour passed by. We all closed shop at 6pm, fearing robbery. Now when the area has become busy, and is a popular site for small businesses, we are getting kicked out. This will really hurt us.”

Seamstress Nang Moe Hnin Aye, who was also evicted, said, “The officials came in a large crowd and evicted us. We requested they give us one more day but they refused. There were a lot of items in our shop and we were given just one hour to remove everything.”

She said she rented her sewing shop for 200,000 kyat (US$170) per month from another shop owner who initially rented it from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

The ministry in 2013 announced it would not renew leases for the shop spaces on that street, and have not been accepting rent from the shop owners ever since.

On Monday, Rangoon City Mayor Maung Maung Soe announced a plan to take action against those who reserve spots on public sidewalks and then rent them back to roadside vendors, as well as taking action against those who set up stalls on public pavements.