Arakan Govt Falls Short on Resettlement Pledge, Locals Say

By Moe Myint 2 February 2016

RANGOON — A recently announced plan by the Arakan State government to resettle dozens of conflict-displaced households appears to have been optimistic, according to a civil society leader who claims the state had grossly underestimated costs.

Khaing Kaung San, of the Wunlark Development Foundation, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the money allocated to the families, who were recently displaced by conflict between government troops and the Arakan Army, fell far short of their needs.

The aid worker said that the state had pledged to provide about 500,000 kyats (US$450) per family as part of a plan to provide materials, labor, housing and farmland for the displaced. According to Khaing Kaung San, a plot of land alone costs about 200,000 kyats in the proposed relocation area, leaving families with little left to rehabilitate their homes and livelihoods.

Khaing Kaung San and one displaced villager told The Irrawaddy this week that the state had, in fact, begun providing aid to some of the refugees, but that it was mostly in the form of corrugated metal for use in homebuilding. The state had not yet purchased land or cattle for the villagers, they said, though some have received cash.

Tun Tha Sein, a displaced villager in Mrauk U Township, said the materials delivered by state authorities were “not enough to build a house” and described some of the resultant structures as “lean-tos,” or temporary shacks.

Hla Thein, of the state government’s public relations department, told The Irrawaddy in late January that the state was prepared to support 32 households, though Khaing Kaung San said that the aid was actually being delivered among about 56, further thinning the supplies. Some were nonetheless able to build modest structures in Mrauk U’s Zayti Taung Ywar Haung village and Ywar Ma Pyin of Kyauktaw Township, he said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Hla Thein said he did not know exactly how much money the state was prepared to spend on resettlement efforts, but that to the best of his knowledge, “the state government has no specific budget [allocation] for them.”

The displaced villagers are currently taking shelter in a monastery in Kyiyar Pyin village. They are among an estimated 200 civilians who fled their homes after conflict broke out between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army in late December, lasting for about three weeks.

The Arakan Army is not recognized by the government as a legitimate non-state armed group, and has been excluded from the ongoing peace process between the government and other ethnic armed organizations.