President cancels property projects near Shwedagon

U Zaw Htay, a director in the President’s Office, said the projects would not be allowed to continue in any form at the current site, though negotiations are ongoing. He said one possible outcome was that the government would agree to give the developers land in another area of the city.

Late last night the cancellation was confirmed on state-run media, with the government saying in a statement that the developers would be forced to stop the projects but would be given compensation.

The dramatic decision to stop the projects was taken following “negotiations” between President’s Office and MIC officials, U Zaw Htay said. The companies involved were not consulted, he added.

“MIC has to instruct the companies to stop their projects. We have already told MIC this. The President’s Office doesn’t need to instruct the companies [to stop]. The President’s Office has already done its duty,” he said.

The five projects include the US$300 million Dagon City 1 development, which is a joint venture between the Marga Group syndicate and local firm Thu Kha Yadanar.

Officials from the affected companies said they had not been informed of the decision by yesterday.

However, MIC secretary U Aung Naing Oo, who is also director general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said MIC had informed the affected companies and was discussing the future of the projects with them.

He said an announcement would be released tomorrow but declined to comment further.

On July 6, a group lobbying against the projects, the Save Shwedagon Committee, announced plans to proceed with a public campaign calling for the developments to be stopped. The committee also called for machinery and workers to leave the sites immediately.

The campaign, which will see members distribute pamphlets outlining their opposition to the project, had been postponed for two weeks in order to give the government time to act on the group’s demands. They plan to meet again on July 19 to discuss a possible public protest.

“We have followed the requests of government officials but they have not given us what we were hoping so we will continue with our plans,” said committee member U Aung Myaing.

The two-week truce came after two military officials, Yangon Region Commander Major General Htun Htun Naung and Yangon Region Minister for Border Affairs and Security Colonel Tin Win, met with the Save Shwedagon Campaign in June in an effort to clear up misunderstandings between the committee and the military.

According to members of the campaign, the military officials promised to stop the projects, but this could not be independently verified with the military.

Col Tin Win had previously rejected a proposal in the Yangon Region Hluttaw to stop the developments.

The five projects in Yangon’s Dagon township south of Shwedagon Pagoda have been temporarily suspended since late January, following concerns they may impact nearby Shwedagon Pagoda, either through blocking the view or affecting the pagoda’s foundations – a concern which the companies have rebutted.

Dagon City 1 and 2 are the most prominent of the five paused projects. Myanmar Company Thu Kha Yadanar is the local partner for Dagon City 1, which is led by a team of international businesspeople from Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea and Britain. Thu Kha Yadanar is the main developer for nearby Dagon City 2.

Speaking prior to last night’s announcement, Thu Kha Yadanar chair U Thaung Htike Min said the MIC has not instructed his company to cancel the project completely. Such an outcome would cause large financial losses for his company, he added.

“We have discussed this issue with MIC but they didn’t say to stop [the projects]. We already gave money to the designers for the project’s design. So, we would have many losses [if it is cancelled]. But we will do it if the president instructed to stop it,” he said.

Marga Landmark said they had not yet received any official announcement from the MIC regarding a final decision on the five projects, including its development Dagon City 1.

The firm has been doing all preparations in strict compliance with government approvals and current laws, and its project is in line with recommendations from the Myanmar Engineering Society and various experts, it said in a statement.

“While the public is being misled by rumours and false accusations, we want to emphasise that the plans of Dagon City 1 have always been and are proper, safe and prepared with the public interest at heart,” the statement said.

“We understand that the relevant authorities will have a final, official decision in due course, one that will uphold the international contract between Myanmar and foreign investors. We expect to obtain the notice from MIC and will comply with the instruction of MIC.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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