Arrests as Yangon authorities tear down shantytown

YANGON (AFP) – At least six people were arrested on Monday as Yangon authorities started to clear a huge slum on the city’s northern fringes, as bitter competition for land in Myanmar’s commercial capital intensifies.

Armed police escorted hundreds of local authority workers wielding bamboo sticks, rakes and saws as they descended on the shantytown in Hlegu township — the first major forced eviction under the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Furious occupants screamed at the workers as they started pulling down bamboo houses early in the morning.

“You are all evil. How dare you do this?” cried one woman.

Many directed their anger at Suu Kyi’s administration, accusing it of continuing the kind of land evictions that were common under military rule.

Authorities pull down homes in a slum area on the outskirts of Yangon yesterday. - AFP
Authorities pull down homes in a slum area on the outskirts of Yangon yesterday. – AFP

“The government is useless and we were wrong to use our fingers to vote,” one man shouted. “The government is always afraid of the army. How can we rely on the government?”

An AFP journalist saw five men and one woman being hauled into police vans for trying to stop the clearance.

Local reports said the slum, around 45 kilometres northeast of Yangon near the highway to Mandalay, was home to 4,000 houses.