RANGOON — Although a plan to build a massive extension to Burma’s biggest city was kept under wraps until last week, locals and land brokers told The Irrawaddy that apparently speculative land buying has been going on in the project area for months.
The plan to expand the city by 30,000 acres, taking in farmland to the west of the city in Kyee Myin Daing, Seik Gyi Kha Naung To and Twante townships, was kept secret from the public until an announcement in the Rangoon Divisional Parliament on Friday.
The ambitious development is expected to involve the building of five bridges, although little is known about the Myanma Setana Myothit Public Company, the firm behind the project that is said to be investing more than US$8 billion. But recent activity in the area in question suggests that some people were privy to the news before last week.
“The [land] purchasing has been quicker in the last two months. People came to buy [land] every day. This has been going on for months,” said Maung Kyi, a resident of Chaung Wa Village who is working as a broker for land on the site of the proposed “New City.”
Locals say land abutting the Twante highway, which runs through the project area, has been in especially high demand recently. Land on the side of the road is now worth an average of 12 million kyat—more than $12,000—per acre, while plots of land 1 mile from the road fetch 5 million kyat per acre.
“The price is going up by 1-1.5 million kyat each day. Someone might ask for 20 million kyat today, then, the next day, he asks for 22 million or 21 million kyat,” said Maung Kyi.
According to the dealers, about 20,000 acres of the 30,000-acre project area is now in the hands of recent buyers, while long-term residents own the rest.
Rangoon Mayor Hla Myint has said that the company will be responsible for compensating the owners of any land to be used for the project. And some villagers are holding out in hope of an even higher offer.
“The village land is almost all sold out. I bought [my land] for 600,000 kyat two years ago. But I don’t want to sell even when some offers me 15 million kyat now,” said a villager from Tamar Tagaw village.
Although the public company behind the development is ostensibly Burmese owned, rumors—fueled by the lack of transparency—are rife that Chinese investors are behind the project.
Since the “new city” project was announced, yet more land dealers and buyers have descended upon the area.
“There are many people who came by to look for land. Some actually bought some, but some just came by to check,” said a dealer from Tamangyi village, adding that “most of them look Chinese.”