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Week in review: Myanmar

Feb 07. 2016
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By Myanmar Eleven

Solo travellers on the rise

The number of solo travellers has steadily increased in Nyaungshwe and Inle Lake in Shan State, according to the Nyaungshwe branch of the Myanmar Tour Guide Association.

Most tour guides have said the demographic of foreign tourists who make up the foreign individual tourist market are young, adventurous and usually alone, while those here on package tours tend to be middle-aged or older and prefer to learn about the history and culture of the region.

A total of 130,715 tourists visited Nyaungshwe in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and 89,169 tourists came during the 2015-2016 fiscal year up to December.

Villages to get power

JJ-Pun, a joint venture of Singapore-based Jebsen and Jessen and SPA, a branch of Yoma group of companies, aims to light 100 off-grid villages.

The company is to start importing equipment and choosing sites by the middle of the year.

Philip Hoffmann, managing director of JJ-Pun, the firm would work with other organisations to deliver on the scheme, after successes with similar projects in Africa.

Fraud hurting property market

Real estate analysts have said developers shun Yangon’s suburbs as landowners there often fail to provide proper paperwork to prove their ownership.

“The prices are very good but everyone is afraid of the troubles that will follow. Prices have halved,” said Zin Min, a property agent.

The government has also issued warnings about fraudulent transactions where people have presented fake documents, keeping the actual owner in the dark.

Properties in townships such as Dagon Seikkan, Mingaladon and Shwepyitha became popular as the prices were far lower than those in central Yangon. Some linked the low prices to the increasing number of squatters in the townships.

Shwe Mann lands top job

The National League for Democracy nominated Shwe Mann to head a prominent legal advisory panel, as the freshly-elected parliament prepares to choose a new president, Reuters reported.

The appointment of Shwe Mann, a former speaker of parliament, will allow Aung San Suu Kyi to draw on his deep understanding of the army and the outgoing government to boost her firepower in the assembly.

Shwe Mann, who lost to an NLD candidate in last year's elections and is not a member of parliament, will lead a panel on legal affairs consisting MPs, technocrats and members of the military who will advise on legislation.

Mining operations suspended

Six companies were ordered to halt mining operations in Hpakant, Kachin State, as repeated landslides are hitting the site where as many as 200 jade hunters were killed during a landslide in November.

The latest landslide occurred at the slagheap named Kankham on January 25.

Kankham caused at least five landslides in 2015 and the deadliest one occurred on November 21, burying about 70 scavengers’ huts. A total of 114 bodies were recovered although villagers estimated about 200 were missing.

Kachin landmines kill 11

Landmine blasts killed 11 people and injured 79 in 2015 in Kachin State, according to police records.

The police said there were 52 mine blasts last year in the state, adding that the victims were mostly farmers, workers and children. Most mine blasts occurred in Hpakant and Mohnyin regions.

Activists charged for protest

Activists Naw Ohn Hla and Tin Htut Paing have been prosecuted under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law after already being handed a five-year prison term, reports say.

On August 8, 2014, they were arrested for protesting to mark the 26th anniversary of the 1988 uprising.

The activists will face other trials for calling for justice on May 15 over the death of Khin Win who was shot during the Letpadaungtaung copper mine protest.

Ethnic groups seek peace

Karen National Union chairman General Mutu Say Po said the KNU would cooperate with the new government, ethnic armed groups and political parties to amend the constitution.

He continued: “To all ethnic Kayin people, the KNU demanded negotiations to stop the war. However, successive governments neglected us. Only the administration of U Thein Sein would hold a discussion with us, and only after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was finalised.”

He said genuine national reconciliation would be achievable only after the 2008 constitution was amended.

Kachin State Democracy Party Chairman Dr Manan Tuu Jar also expressed the wish to end conflict in the troubled state by working with the new government.

He said it was a must to stop the civil war.

More than 1,500 clashes have been reported between the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation since June 2011.

Pensioners hustle for housing

A huge number of applicants applied for spots in the recently announced low-rent Mahabandoola housing project, according to the Yangon Region government,

The application for a 30,000-kyat-per-month (Bt845) rental flat in South Dagon Township opened on February 1 and the majority of the applicants were pensioners.

There were around 700 applicants on the first day alone.

Only one apartment per family is allowed, and the applicant must fit the following criteria: they must not own a property, which documents from related government departments prove.

People awarded the right to rent a bedroom apartment will not be allowed to take on sub-letters.

“I am living with my relatives but have no place to call my own. I used to be a public servant, and now I am a pensioner. Others were given land plots, apartments and phones, but after 34 years of service, I do not even own a small apartment. It makes me sad. I hope that I will get a place, even though there are so many applicants,” said Daw Win, 64, a pensioner from Insein Township.

The application period will end on February 15.

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