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Rakhine State authorities verifying legality of Maungdaw buildings

By Yi Yawl Myint
September 26, 2016
Rakhine State officials are reviewing the legality of buildings in a Muslim-majority township as the state government proceeds with a controversial demolition plan that could see dozens of mosques destroyed.

Buildings in Maungdaw will be the first in the state to be scrutinised to determine if they were legally or illegally constructed, Colonel Htain Linn, Rakhine State minister for security and border affairs, said at a September 24 press conference. He added that no demolition has been started yet, despite several social media rumours to the contrary.

“We will conduct a building verification process according to the law,” said the minister, who is also chairing the committee for buildings management and verification in Rakhine State. The state-level committee was formed on September 12, with district- and township-level committees formed last week.

“If we find that a building was illegally constructed, we will file a lawsuit and follow the court decision,” he said.

The committee is tasked with verifying buildings across Rakhine State and picked Maungdaw township for initial scrutiny because it is situated on a fragile border area with implications for state security, said U Min Aung, head of the Rakhine State municipal development committee and vice chair of the buildings management committee.

“The building verification will be conducted according to municipal law in every town in the state,” he said.

He added that there are more than 3000 illegal buildings in Maungdaw. Those found to be responsible for constructing a building illegally could face a fine or up to two years in prison, he added.

The state’s demolition plan has prompted criticism among human rights groups and self-identifying Muslim Rohingya organisations.

On September 23, 11 international Rohingya groups signed a joint statement demanding the government intervene in the slated destruction “under the pretext of illegal construction”.

Haji Maung Bar, a Muslim community leader from Maungdaw township, told The Myanmar Times that he did not understand why the government would be interested in destroying mosques and Muslim schools built in response to state-imposed restrictions prohibiting groups of more than five people from assembling in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

“If the government demolishes such ‘illegal’ buildings, they should make other, better buildings for us to continue to be able to pray, go to school and so on,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nyan Lynn Aung, translation by Thiri Min Htun

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