Thousands Protest against Venue of Matupi District Office

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Thousands of people gathered in the southern Chin State town of Matupi on Thursday for the second protest in less than a month against plans by the state government to build the local district office eight miles outside of the town.

Carrying placards and vinyl posters demanding that the government reverse its decision, nearly 3,500 protestors set out from the eight-road junction in Matupi at 9:30am and marched to the Hakha-Mindat Junction Road via General Aung San Road before returning to their starting point.

The protestors say they are angry that the state government has ignored their demand to build the proposed 26-building office complex in the town, despite a general consensus among officials in favor of a downtown location.

“We are demanding that they build the Matupi district office at the venue of the current township GAD office or at the Fulper ground, in accordance with the decisions of the upper and lower houses, government departments, municipal committees, town elders, ward administrators, village headmen and CSOs,” Thein Myint, one of the protest leaders, told Khonumthung News.

The state government has insisted, however, that the office should be built eight miles away in the village Hpanai Ngalai, where surveying work has already begun. It says the decision is based on the advice of experts.

But opponents of the move dispute this, saying that the experts who were called in to advise on the project didn’t even look at the preferred downtown locations.

“People want transparency and accountability. Without transparency, we don’t want any implementation,” said Thein Myint.

In March, Burma’s Union government approved a budget of 1.8 billion kyat (US$1.18 million) for construction of the Matupi district office.

Thein Myint also said the state government’s actions are not in line with the country’s democratic principles. “If they don’t respect the desires of the people, it doesn’t fit with democracy. Now we are walking on the democratic road, and this situation goes against the desires of the president and the state counsellor,” he said.

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