Villagers dependent on income from the Aung Myint Tha recreational area in Myitkyina, Kachin State, re-opened the site in recent weeks after a three-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locals in the nearby village, also named Aung Myint Tha, called on Kachin State’s chief minister to open the park again in early July, saying that their livelihoods depended upon being able to sell food and other products to visitors in the recreational area, which includes a stream, waterfront restaurants, and small shops. They then opened it at the end of the month.
“Villagers are struggling for food. Villagers have said that they would follow health guidelines when selling food and other products in the recreational area,” Naw Ja, the village headman of Aung Myint Tha, said. “All of the villagers signed a petition letter. Then we reported it to the Kachin State chief minister. After that, we opened shops in the recreational area.”
Despite not having official permission to re-open, Naw Ja said that no one has stopped visitors from arriving and spending time at the site, which is managed by a market committee, village administration, and local police.
Hundreds of people have reportedly been arriving in the area each day since it re-opened.
In the past, nearly 100 families sold food and other products in Aung Myint Tha, but now only 25 families are running shops, he added.
“I closed my shop. We had to stay at home. We didn’t have any income, so we had to spend our savings. Now it’s gone,” Aung Myint Tha resident Pawm Roi Tawng told KNG.
The residents of Aung Myint Tha were originally from the Myitsone area, their homes located in an area that was to be flooded by the China-backed Myitsone dam on the confluence of the Irrawaddy River. The Burmese government suspended the project in 2011, but the villagers had already been relocated to Aung Myint Tha.
It has been previously reported that these villagers did not receive adequate compensation for the loss of their homes and land.