Local residents and 88-generation students oppose forced relocation

Dry soil in Aung Myin Tha (Photo: Hkun Ja)

252 villagers signed a petition letter and submitted to Kachin State minister and central Burmese government to allow them to go back to their homes in Tanghpre. On March 7, villagers were forced to sign a written record by Myitkyina county administrator to acknowledge that they are not allowed to go back to Tanghpre village.

Tanghpre villagers have been relocated to Aung Myin Ta village since 2009 to make way for dam construction. Local farmers said they couldn’t grow any crops on dry, infertile land in Aung Myin Ta.

88-generation student leaders who visited Tanghpre village on Feb 24 to attend a multi-faith prayer service wrote a letter (88 Generation to Government) to President Thein Sein, and leaders of both houses in parliament on March 13. Mya Aye, an 88 generation student leader, made an appeal to all citizens of Burma in a voice recording (Ko Mya Aye’s request) to ask and write letters to President Thein Sein for current situations and sufferings of Tanghpre villagers.

Tanghpre villagers are doubtful for President’s announcement for dam suspension because Chinese company workers and Asia World company workers are still living in their temporary quarters. After dam suspension was announced, Tanghpre high school was being demolished by government authorities on Oct 9, 2011. Local authorities did not let villagers to return to their own homes and even warn them to leave the areas they used to pan for gold to make living.

On March 6, County administrator Khin Maung Cho accompanied by about 20 policemen arrested some 20 villagers including a Catholic nun and forced them to sign a pledge not to return home. A written warning was issued to villagers to destroy their own houses in Tanghpre and return to relocated areas by County administrator under the pressure of vice president Tin Aung Myit Oo, said a villager.

According to eye witnesses, a senior officer from China Power Investment Corporation visited dam project site on March 3, 2012 and the harassment has increased after his visit.