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Private firm accused of violent eviction in Rangoon

Bulldozers move in on Simphontaung in Rangoon’s Mingalardon Township. (Photo: DVB)

Forty-eight families were left homeless and several people injured after violence broke out on 12 and 13 June as an attempt was made to forcibly evict residents of Simphontaung in Rangoon’s Mingalardon Township.

“They brought in a lot of men on five or six trucks, armed with construction tools like spades and crowbars but also slingshots. The residents had nothing but sticks to defend themselves,” a resident told DVB.

“The men jumped out of the trucks shouting profanities. We ran into the monastery but they chased after us, breaking windows. They left a [knife] sheath behind inside the monastery and we photographed it,” he added.

According to an official account, the residents believed that the men were employees of the construction company Zaykabar, who reportedly own the land. Zaykabar are widely known to have forcibly seized land in the past.

“Regarding the incident on 12 June, a lawsuit has been filed – with case number Pa-236/2015 – under Penal Code articles 337 and 338*. The villagers aimed slingshots at individuals they believed were evicting them. Six Zaykabar employees were injured and treated at Insein prison for none-critical wounds. The company is seeking legal action against the attackers under Penal Code articles 325 and 336* – case number Pa-237/2015.

“We identified the land owner as U Tun Tun Win and can assume the [men] were working for the land owner.”

The police said that Zaykabar did not inform authorities about the eviction in advance. With injuries reported by residents and evictors, both sides are now pressing charges against each other.

Those families left homeless following the incident are currently taking shelter at the nearby Dekhinayon Buddhist monastery in the neighbourhood.

Zay Thiha, a Zaykabar official, denied the company’s involvement in the melee, claiming that its uniform-clad staff were on security detail at an industrial zone around 100 yards from the scene.

Zaykabar is a major Burmese corporation with interests in telecommunications and construction. It is owned by upper house MP Khin Shwe who also heads the National Development Group of Companies, Myanmar Tourism Board and the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association.

* Article 325: “for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.”; Article 336: “Act endangering life or personal safety of others.”; Article 337: “Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others.”; Article 338: “Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety others.”