Myanmar: Over 50,000 exposed to forced evictions and housing destruction, say UN experts

GENEVA (2 December 2022) - The Myanmar Military is forcibly evicting over 50,000 people from informal settlements and systematically destroying homes in a fundamental violation of core human rights obligations, UN experts said today.

More than 40,000 residents living in informal settlements in Mingaladon, a northern township of Yangon, have received eviction notices last month. Many were given only a few days to dismantle their homes, without provision of any alternative housing or land. Most residents have lived for decades in an industrial zone containing a mixture of industrial enterprises, informal settlements and vacant land controlled by the Myanmar Military.

Additional residents moved to the area after being displaced by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, or were forcibly displaced there as a result of violent military attacks on civilian villages in Rakhine State, the experts said.

After receiving eviction notices, some residents dismantled their homes in an attempt to secure their belongings and construction materials. However, most residents have so far chosen to remain due to a lack of alternative or decided to flee their homes. Out of desperation, two residents reportedly committed suicide.

“Forced evictions from Mingaladon are only part of the story. Violent arbitrary housing demolitions continue across the country,” the experts said.

On 19 November, 150 homes were bulldozed in Ward 3 of Yangon's Mayangone township, rendering affected residents homeless. The eviction was carried out by the State Administration Council and civilians armed with sticks and knives. The residents were reportedly given only 30 minutes to remove their belongings, and are temporarily sheltering in monasteries or with friends.

In Myanmar’s second largest city of Mandalay, over 5,000 households in Chan Mya Thazi Township were evicted overnight on 21 November. Earlier the Military demolished several houses with bulldozers in Zee Oat village in the same town. In addition, 200 shops and apartments on the station road of Mandalay's Pyin Oo Lwin township were ordered to be removed by 25 November, despite having local approval.

According to the experts, not only those living in informal settlements in Myanmar’s cities were subjected to forced evictions and housing demolitions. “Homes continued to be systematically destroyed, bombed and burned down in orchestrated attacks on villages by the Myanmar security forces and junta-backed militias,” they said.

Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, more than 38,000 houses have been destroyed or burned down, leading to widespread displacement of over 1.1 million people. Recently, on 23 November, 95 of 130 houses were burned down in the Kha War Thei village in Kyunhla Township, when the Myanmar military set fire to the settlement. The experts said these incidents follow a pattern of widespread burning of Rohingya villages perpetrated by the Myanmar Military in 2017 during genocidal attacks against the Rohingya.

“The policies of scorched earth in Myanmar are widespread and follow a systematic pattern,” the experts said.

In a recent report to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing suggested that such arbitrary destruction of housing, displacing thousands into homelessness, should be recognised as domicide, a crime under international law.

“Forced evictions and mass burning of homes are gross violations of human rights. The junta must immediately stop the systematic destruction, burning and bulldozing of civilian homes,” the UN experts said.

“Depending on the context, systematic housing destruction and displacement can be prosecuted either as a war crime, a crime against humanity, or both. It is the responsibility of the international community to ensure that those responsible for such crimes face international justice,” they said.


The experts: Mr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, assumed his function as Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing on 1 May 2020. He is Professor of Law and Development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mr. Thomas Andrews, is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. He is a Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale University Law School and an Associate of Harvard University's Asia Center.