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Thein Sein urges officials to prevent land disputes

President Thein Sein has called on state and regional officials to keep a close watch on land disputes - in line with the law and standing orders - warning that moves to grab land from farmers may invite bribery and other illegal acts.

Speaking at a workshop on farmland management at Myanmar International Convention Centre on Thursday, the president said ministries, plus state and regional governments need to help prevent such problems because attempts to occupy farmland have been common lately and causing other problems.

"Some acquire farmland around town outskirts to run industries, gardens, inns, and petrol outlets. Many have tried to transform farmland to other categories [of land-use] by any means necessary, and some have gone beyond the law," he said.

The workshop also focused on usage of farmland for urban and rural development projects.

With the economy opening up and foreign investment and trade surging, there has also been a rise in property speculation, which has caused land prices to skyrocket. Some people were not investing in productive sectors but buying cars, property, or getting into banking and estate businesses. This had caused a jump in land prices, sluggish investment in other areas and it was likely to cause inflation.

The president called for people to try to find a balance between personal and national interest.

"We need to give immediate attention to land disputes. Delays are caused by lengthy red tape. People's property and land area should be measured and registered," he said.

The country was seeing greater urbanisation, but squatters were also rife throughout the suburbs. Urban and rural development should be planned and mapped to provide a better lifestyle for all citizens, the President said.

Japanese loan to fund small power plants for Thilawa SEZ

Two power plants with a generating capacity of 50 megawatts will be built with Japanese aid to provide electricity around the clock for Thilawa, following talks with bosses of the Special Economic Zone on August 14.

The power plants will be funded with a Japanese loan at a 0.01 per cent interest rate to supply electricity to 49 industries in Thilawa SEZ.

"The Japanese will give both low-interest credit and technology. We'll also get help from the Energy Ministry," Win Aung, the chairperson of Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings, said.

Electricity consumption at Thilawa is expected to be 10-20MW in 2015, but tipped to rise to 60-90MW in 2018 and 160-225MW by 2020, according to Sett Aung, chairperson of Thilawa SEZ's management committee.

"This project is a Japan-Myanmar joint venture," Sett Aung said. "That's why we have a financial loan for building infrastructure. The interest rate is low and we have 40 years to repay the loan. The power plants will have sufficient capacity to supply the energy needed for the zone."

The Thilawa SEZ is located in Thanlyin and Kyauktan townships, 20 kilometres southeast of Yangon.

It has two sections - A, for car and electronic industries, and B for garment factories and foodstuffs.

By-elections primarily slated for 34 constituencies

By-elections are likely to be held in 34 constituencies, said the director of the Union Election Commission (UEC).

UEC director Thaung Hlaing said the by-elections were planned in all 34 constituencies. However, the process may be suspended in some places that pose security concerns or suffer from natural disasters.

Some constituencies are in Kachin state. The previous by-elections could not be held in the areas due to conflicts. Kachin had to send its list of candidates to the commission then.

"We will hold them at all constituencies if we can. If that is not possible, we can suspend them. But that would be known only then," Thaung Hlaing said.

"When we make our announcement, political parties concerned will know it first and start to woo voters. The elections would not be free and fair if one party decides to go to an unstable region when others don't want to."

Commission chairman Tin Aye had told political parties and parliament that by-elections are likely to take place at the end of November or early December, he said.

The date of the voting would be announced three months before, he said, so that meant it would be made this or next month. Elections will be held at a time when political parties have not yet reached an accord over the controversial proportional representation.

On Friday, the National League for Democracy organised a public talk in Yangon, aiming to raise public awareness on the change in the voting system.


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