13 June 2017 – Four men and one women were charged on Tuesday with attacking police as they forcibly removed inhabited sheds from an illegal “squatter” settlement along a stretch of roadway in a township northeast of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon, a local police official said.
Authorities charged the five under the Highways Act for attacking police with slingshots on Monday during the shantytown’s demolition in Hlegu township to make way for a high-rise residential project.
The Highways Act governs the regulation of traffic on public roads and in public places and the preservation of the surfaces of such roads and places.
“They’ve been charged by the highway police for blocking the road and attacking them,” said Maung Oo, deputy commander of the Hlegu police. “No other charges have been made against them.”
About 200 Myanmar police officers and 1,000 others hired by the Yangon government on Monday evicted hundreds of settlement residents and dismantled roughly 4,000 illegal homes in the township along the Yangon-Naypyidaw Expressway about 30 miles outside the commercial hub.
One policeman was injured in the melee, Reuters reported.
Residents have objected heavily to the destruction of their homes, accusing village officials and others of fraudulently selling them their plots of land, and complaining that they have not been compensated for the loss of their homes.
Most reported paying 300,000 to 1,300,000 kyats (U.S. $218-$947) for a 40-by-60 square-foot plot of land.
In August 2016, authorities notified the shantytown’s residents that they were living in the area illegally, and issued them reminders almost every month thereafter.
The demolition operation marked the second time that squatters have been cleared out of Hlegu township following the leveling of the area in 2015.
This time, authorities, who are removing the structures without the use of bulldozers or heavy equipment, said they will make sure that the landowners do not return.
The destruction of the shantytown, which is still in progress, marks the first forced eviction under the civilian-led government of de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which has been in power since April 2016.
Forced evictions were common in the five decades Myanmar was under military rule.