First Resettlements Set to Begin in Violence-Hit Meikhtila

By Lawi Weng 31 July 2014

RANGOON — Local authorities are preparing to resettle the first group of people in Meikhtila to be provided new homes after inter-communal violence ripped through the town in central Burma more than a year ago.

Thousands were displaced and at least 40 people were killed when the Mandalay Division town was engulfed by clashes between Buddhists and Muslims for three days in March 2013 before the government declared state of emergency. Some 7,845 people, mostly Muslims, remain homeless and living in camps around the town, of which 220 households will soon be resettled.

Khin Naing, a member of the town’s resettlement committee and the supervisor on the project to build new homes for the displaced, told The Irrawaddy that the first round of resettlement would begin next week.

“The authorities informed our construction committee that the resettlement program will begin between Aug. 4 and 5. This is the first round of resettlement and includes 220 houses,” Khin Naing said.

Families will be given 40-by-30-feet plots of land and a small house in Meikhtila’s Chan Aye Tharyar Quarter, he said. The area was the town’s Muslim quarter, and more than 1,500 houses there were razed to the ground during the violence, according to state media.

Khin Naing added that Mandalay Division Chief Minister San Aung had informed the committee about the start of resettlement on a recent visit.

Authorities have not provided detailed information to the displaced people about how they will be resettled, sparking rumors that a random ballot system will be employed. About 100 people have written to the divisional government with concerns that a ballot system could mean they are not resettled on the sites of their former homes.

“[The displaced people] strongly oppose the authorities using a ballot system because they are worried that they will not get their own land,” said Khin Naing.

Inter-communal violence in the past two years has affected a number of cities and towns in Burma, most notably in Arakan State, where about 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, are living in camps following violence there. The Muslim and Buddhist communities in Mandalay clashed earlier this month during riots that led to the deaths of two people.

However, Win Htein, a National League for Democracy member of Parliament for Meikhtila, said he was not concerned that problems would arise again between the two communities in the town.

“It is peaceful already in the area. Both communities in the area can maintain a situation without violence, so there will be no problems,” said Win Htein.