Members of the Lawyers’ Network have protested against a government decision to lease two court buildings to private companies and have threatened to sue the Myanmar Investment Commission.
About 50 lawyers from the network walked from the High Court on Maha Bandoola Park Street to Small Claims Court on Strand Road during the May 28 protest.
Following an invitation for tender, the investment commission leased the Small Claims Court building to Flying Tiger Engineering Company to run as a hotel. The High Court building was awarded to Tun Foundation Bank to run as a museum.
Lawyer U Ko Ni said it was not appropriate to change a legal building into a hotel and the decision may have violated section 20 of the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law.
“The section says you cannot change the original structure and form of an ancient heritage building and violators face one to seven years in jail. If they change [the Small Claims Court] into a hotel, a court of law will become bathrooms, toilets and bedrooms,” U Ko Ni said.
It was the second protest the network has staged against the proposed development. The first took place in October 2012 but the lawyers said they had received no response. The lawyers say they will apply to file charges under the Specific Relief Act.
“The Small Claims Court was an important building in the history of the Myanmar judicial system. We should preserve our heritage buildings,” said lawyer U Kyee Myint.
“We waited for a response from MIC but have heard nothing so we have decided to prosecute the MIC.”
MIC member U Aung Naing Oo said he was unaware of the allegations but denied any impropriety. He said the tender had been open and transparent, with the call for expressions of interest published in state newspapers, and there had been no objections submitted at the time against the proposed tender.
“MIC acted in accordance with the law. If the lawyers want to object, they should have done it when we invited tenders,” he said. “In other countries heritage buildings are converted into hotels in the interests of the country.”
U Thaung Htike, managing director of Flying Tiger, said the deal to turn the court into a hotel would net the government significant income. Under the project, the company has agreed to a one-off US$14.4 million payment as well as 7 percent of annual income over 70 years, after which the hotel will revert to state ownership. He said the project is 30pc completed and should be finished in 2016.
“We are working not only for the benefit of our company but also to develop our country,” he said, adding: “We will never stop the hotel project.”
In contrast, little work appears to have been undertaken at the High Court on the planned conversion to a museum.
U Thein Tun said last week that although Tun Foundation Bank won the tender it has still not signed a contract for the project. He said the bank had decided to postpone the project because of the protests.
Source Myanmar Times