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business

Yangon factories claim extortion by ‘bullies’


ALTHOUGH the Myanmar government has instructed all industrial zones in Yangon to increase production for quality exports, zone chiefs claimed on Friday that their productivity was severely hurt by bullies extorting money.

The heads of 23 industrial zones in Yangon Region gathered at the Myanmar Industries Association (MIA) office to demand the rule of law. High-ranking officials from the ruling National League for Democracy’s Central Economic Committee, Myanmar Police Forces, the Urban Housing Development Department, and members of Parliament were also present at the event. 
Zaw Min Win, president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, condemned illegal tenants’ act of collecting money from factory owners through extortion. Very recently, so-called farmers built tents in front of some factories in Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone. They demanded money if the factories wanted them to move to enable their regular operations. The factory owners said that those people behaved like gangsters. 
“Such acts are very ugly, especially when the government is inviting foreign investors to do business here. It is like bullying factory owners there. Even local businesses cannot move them out. So, how can foreign investors address this issue?” he said. 
“How can we attract foreign businesses to build factories here without the rule of law in place?” he questioned. 
Aye Thaung, president of Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone Management Committee, accused those who claim money as “damage” for the loss of their farmland of bullying businesses by neglecting the existing laws. 
“They are neither farmers nor illegal tenants. They are indeed gangsters like Japan’s yakuza. They intentionally build tents in front of the factories, and then claim damages. This how they usually earn their living. We understand that farmers are very poor, and we sympathise with them. But how can such poor farmers possess hundreds of acres of farmland here and there?” he questioned.
Aye Thaung said the lack of stringence and enforcement of the existing laws and regulations was a problem for factory owners.
“Authorities were there to solve the problem. There was also media coverage. But they do not care for anything. They assume that they will get around 20 million kyats [Bt517,000] if they win the case. But if they lose, they will be imprisoned only for three months or less. So, they dare to challenge the rule of law,” he said. 
He is worried that foreign investors will not invest in the industrial zone if the government fails to stop illegal tenants from threatening factory owners. Also, he is concerned about the productivity of the factories there.
“The government has urged us to double our productivity in order to do well in the Asean Economic Community. But if we are tied up and are asked to run a marathon, how can we compete with our rivals?” he claimed.
Nay Lin Zin, secretary-general of Shwe Lin Pan Industrial Zone, said that some owners had to agree to pay the damage to the illegal tenants, as they felt unprotected. 
MP Sandar Min, president of Yangon Region Parliament’s Finance, Planning and Economic Committee, urged factory owners not to pay anything to those people, as it would encourage them to also extort money from other factories. She suggested seeking a verdict from the court, even though it might take a long time. 
“If they are found guilty of ex-torting money from factory owners, they will be treated as criminals. |If they are truly farmers, they deserve to win the damages. Otherwise, they must be imprisoned,” she said.
“We are now making an observation on the ground. We will submit our findings to the Yangon Region prime minister very soon.” 
Aung Thein, president of MIA and managing director of Nibban Electronics, said that the association would provide factory owners with every possible assistance until proper solutions are found.
 

Published : January 29, 2017

By : KHINE KYAW MYANMAR ELEVEN ASIA NEWS NETWORK YANGON