Lawyers’ Network sues to stop building renovation

The Lawyers’ Network has filed complaints against government officials and investors involved in a US$50 million hotel project on Strand Road, and applied for an injunction to stop renovation work at the site.

Advocates U Than Tin, U Kyee Myint and U Ohn Maung lodged complaints against Yangon Region Chief Minister U Myint Swe, former head of the Myanmar Investment Commission U Zeyar Aung and two private companies, Flying Tiger Engineering Company and Prime Residence.

The complaints were submitted at the Yangon Region High Court on November 28 under section 42 of the Specific Relief Act.

The court will decide next week whether to accept the civil case, which could lead to an order to stop renovation work.

“We have also applied for an injunction because otherwise the company will be able to keep renovating the building while the court case is being heard,” U Kyee Myint said last week.

Flying Tiger won a tender in 2012 to turn the Small Claims Court on Strand Road into a five-star hotel. However, in October that year the Lawyers’ Network staged a protest against the project, arguing it was not appropriate to repurpose a court into a hotel. A second protest was held in May but work has continued at the site.

Flying Tiger managing director U Thaung Htike Min said renovation work was 40 percent finished and could be completed as early as 2016.

He defended the tender, saying the process had been “open and transparent” and the project was beneficial for the country.

“I believe the government and public will benefit from this hotel and I consider this renovation to be a good deed,” he said, adding that Flying Tiger was a wholly Myanmar-owned company.

“We are working to develop our country and we will never stop this hotel project.”

In July Flying Tiger officials told The Myanmar Times they had reached an agreement with Swiss chain Kempinski AG under which the building would open in 2017 as the Kempinski Yangon with 239 rooms.

Under the terms of the original agreement between MIC and Flying Tiger, the company has a 70-year lease on the Strand Road site.

According to a letter that the president sent to parliament in July 2012, annual rent will be 7 percent of hotel revenue, while the company will also pay a fee of US$14.4 million for land use and agree to invest at least K20 billion. The company is also prohibited from making major alterations to the original structure.

Under section 20 of Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law, anyone found to have destroyed or “willfully” altered the original form and structure of a heritage site faces one to seven years in prison.

U Thaung Htike Min said Flying Tiger took its heritage obligations seriously.

“We have already held discussions with Yangon Heritage Trust about renovating this building into a hotel so that we didn’t damage any of its original features,” he said.

Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) director Daw Moe Moe Lwin said the non-profit heritage group had recommended that the company submit a conservation management plan when it renovates the building.

The company says it will submit this plan in the coming week, after which YHT will offer recommendations on how to proceed with the renovations.

The lawyers have also previously protested the MIC decision to lease the High Court building to Tun Foundation Bank to run as a museum.

U Thein Tun, who is the majority investor in Myanmar Consolidated Media, publisher of The Myanmar Times, said he has decided to postpone the project because of the opposition from the Lawyers’ Network. Although Tun Foundation Bank won the tender, no contract was signed for the project, he said.

U Kyee Myint said he hoped Flying Tiger would take a similar approach.

“Because he stopped the renovation plan I think it shows U Thein Tun loves his country. Flying Tiger should also stop their five-star hotel project,” he said.


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