Locals have spoken out against the construction of a stadium in Taunggyi costing the Shan State government more than 200 million kyat (more than US$155,000), pointing to a lack of transparency surrounding the project and questionable timing ahead of Burma’s general election.
The stadium is located on the Awaiyar hot air balloon grounds in the Shan State capital. Construction began during the 2019-2020 fiscal year by the state government and is nearly complete.
“People only realized the project was happening after completion,” Taunggyi local Wint Htel Kaung Myat told SHAN. “It’s a democratic era. They should explain what projects they are going to do, and what projects they are implementing. They should take on suggestions before they start a project… they should have gotten an agreement from the people before starting a project.”
Chairperson of the civil society organization the World Green Network, Cherry Kyaw, said that the stadium would be a good place for recreation, since it is located near the local university.
“I think it’s a good way to prevent narcotics [abuse] and persuade students to play sports,” she said.
However, those who oppose the construction of the stadium have pointed out other needs throughout Shan State, including roads, village clinics, and school buildings.
“Shan State needs many more necessary and important things than a 200-million-kyat sports ground,” Mee Nge, who lives in Taunggyi, told SHAN.
She went on to describe the stadium as being “low quality” and not worth the hefty price tag.
Shan State’s planning and finance minister Soe Nyunt Lwin has defended the project, saying that there was previously no sports ground in Taunggyi, and that the state government was constructing space for a football field, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and grounds where caneball (chinlone) and sepak takraw can be played.
He said that he had visited the sports grounds on October 19 and agreed that the surface of the grounds was still rough, and wrote on his Facebook page that the government was ordering the construction committee to “check the quality” of the project.
Minister Soe Nyunt Lwin is running for re-election in Taunggyi Townships’ Constituency 1 on November 8.
Locals have asked whether the stadium construction is connected to sitting government members’ desire for reelection.
“I think they want to show what they have done within the last four years. They didn’t tell people about it before they constructed this sports ground,” local woman Nang Ohmar said.
Others described what they say is a National League for Democracy (NLD) government trend to undertake development initiatives in cities, rather than implement projects that would serve rural communities where the NLD is perceived as less likely to garner votes.
“The government mainly works for urban development and pays little attention to rural areas. It hasn’t changed,” Sai La, who lives in the northern Shan State city of Lashio, told SHAN.