Residents in central Burma’s Meikhtila whose homes were burnt down during anti-Muslim riots last March are asking to be resettled on their former land plots after officials pushed a plan to move the group into new apartment blocks.
Following the riots, authorities in Meikhtila announced a plan to build several apartment buildings that would contain more than 3,000 flats in total in Chanayethar and Thiri Mingalar wards.
Khin Nan, a spokesperson from the Meikhtila-based civil society group Htilar Thuhka Thammagi Association, said the residents who are still living in displacement camps have told authorities they would prefer to return to their land plots instead of moving into new apartments.
“The [residents] have sent letters objecting to the new housing plan – most of them are livestock breeders and have odd jobs. They won’t fit in with the new housing system,” said Khin Nan.
According to the spokesperson, each plot of land’s market value hovers around 70-80 million Kyat.
While the people who stand to lose their land have objected to the authorities initial proposal, others say the new development plan should be implemented to prepare for the future expansion of the city.
“They should look 20 years ahead – how much the population will grow – and now is the best time to draw an urban development plan to facilitate for the increase in population,” said Htein Linn Khaing, a Meikhtila-based member of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society.
More than 10,000 residents in Mandalay division’s Meikhtila were displaced during the riots in March. Only about half of those who were forced to flee from their houses have been able to return home. According to residents who’ve been resettled, trust between the city’s Buddhists and Muslim communities has crumbled.
Last week, seven Muslim men were sentenced to jail for the murder of a monk, whose death allegedly kicked off the wave of religious riots that spread across central Burma. The sentences come as rights groups claim the government failed to protect Muslim communities during the violence.
According to a detailed report published by Physicians for Human Rights last week, authorities turned a blind eye as 20 Muslim students were massacred by monk-led mobs during the Meikhtila riots.