Demolition of riverside squats leaves families homeless

Local authorities have demolished 50 huts belonging to squatters on the banks of the Irrawaddy in Mandalay Division.

The villagers had been forced onto higher ground by rising floodwaters, where they constructed the makeshift dwellings on a stretch of farmland in Kyanikan village.

Local authorities deemed the squats illegal and attempted to provide an alternative for the villagers. However that option was not satisfactory, as the land that they were moved to was already occupied.

On 3 June, the municipal authorities began evicting the villagers and bulldozing their homes.

“We have young students in our families, from eighth grade down to first,” said one of the villagers. “It’s not very suitable for them to live in homes right next to the river, so we moved up to the embankment.”

The families said even after their huts have been destroyed, they will have no choice but to just live on the ground, as they have nowhere else to go.

“The officials came and told us to leave, but there’s nowhere else to go, so we have to stay here.”

The families marched to the township municipal office in protest, but they were denied a meeting with officials.

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“They [local government officials] said the land is owned by the Municipal Department and told us to move out at once, accusing us of disturbing their work,” said another squatter, Mya Khine. “They said they don’t care how we have to live. We begged them, saying we have children and there’s nowhere else to go.”

The tough action is the latest in a series of government demolitions of semi-permanent dwellings, which have left hundreds homeless across Burma.

In February, 500 villagers from Hlegu Township in Rangoon Division were forced into the shelter of a monastery after their homes were deemed illegal and torn down. In that case, local well-wishers supported the homeless families with food and other donations.

With no government assistance pledged so far, the Mandalay riverside villagers hope they, too, can rely on the kindness of strangers.

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