Govt Says It Is Ready to Register, Resettle Muslim Refugees

By San Yamin Aung 28 September 2017

YANGON — The government plans to begin registering and resettling Bangladesh’s self-identifying Rohingya Muslim refugees in northern Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State “as soon as possible,” according to Myanmar’s social welfare and resettlement minister.

The 2 billion-kyat plan involves registering refugees—according to the 1993 agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh—in Taungpyo Letwe and Nga Khu Ya villages before resettling them in Dar Gyi Zar village in Maungdaw Township, U Win Myat Aye, also chair of the Implementation Committee for Recommendations on Rakhine State, told reporters on Wednesday.

Some 480,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims have now fled across the border to Bangladesh after the Myanmar Army launched clearance operations in the wake of deadly attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Aug. 25.

Muslims fleeing northern Rakhine’s Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships have brought with them tales of killings, rape, and arson by the security forces. Human rights observers have said satellite imagery shows half of the 400 self-identifying Rohingya villages in the three townships had been torched and the UN human rights chief has labelled the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

The Minister of the State Counselor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe will travel to Bangladesh to negotiate with Bangladesh authorities over the refugees’ repatriation, U Win Myat Aye said on Wednesday.

U Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, told The Irrawaddy that the government would issue national verification cards (NVCs) to those who are accepted to return to the country at the point of entry.

The majority of the area’s Muslims—most of whom self-identify as Rohingya—have long objected to the government’s NVC project, with complaints dating back to the previous military-backed government, for not identifying them as “Rohingya.”

With regards to Muslim refugees returning to their original villages, Rakhine chief minister U Nyi Pu said on Wednesday the state government would clear and manage the land under the Article 18(d) of Myanmar’s 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law which allow related government departments to carry out reconstruction of buildings damaged by natural disasters.

The state government will later form a committee to redistribute the land in accordance with the law he said.

Implementation committee chair U Win Myat Aye said the relevant ministries will implement the recommendations of Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and a government investigation commission led by Vice President U Myint Swe, prioritizing putting stability, security and rule of law in place and acting depending on the situation on the ground.

He added the committee will work to improve transportation in the region in the next three years and that electricity Rathedaung, Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships will be electrified by the end of 2018.

Additional reporting by Htet Naing Zaw in Naypyitaw.