Govt to Step Up Pace of Arakan Reconstruction

By The Irrawaddy 10 April 2013

Burma’s President Thein Sein said his government will accelerate efforts to rebuild areas of Arakan State hit by last year’s violence between ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims before the start of this year’s rainy season.

The clashes, which began in June 2012, displaced more than 100,000 people, many of whom remain in temporary shelters and still lack any means of supporting themselves since losing their livelihoods nearly a year ago.

According to a report on the President’s Office website, the government and international organizations such as the UN refugee agency will set up programs to provide long-term assistance for those who have lost their livelihoods due to the violence.

Most of the affected population were farmers and fishermen, so the programs will focus on providing livestock feed, seeds and agricultural and fishing equipment, the report said on Tuesday.

Thein Sein announced his plans at his office in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, at the opening of a meeting of the Arakan Investigation Commission, a body formed by presidential order last year to determine the causes of the communal clashes, which killed at least 100 people. The commission includes politicians, academics, journalists and non-governmental aid workers.

The long-term resettlement and assistance projects aim to restore normalcy in the hard-hit areas of northern Arakan State, and will make it possible for the government army to gradually reduce its presence in the area, the president said.

In order to implement the plan, the government has formed another ministerial-level body that includes Immigration Minister Khin Yi and will be based in Sittwe, the Arakan capital. It will have three months to complete its work, the president said.

On Tuesday, Khin Yi visited Sittwe together with the US and Australian ambassadors and representatives of UN agencies. They also visited relief camps in Pauktaw, Myebon and Sittwe townships, according to a report on Tuesday by the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar.

The ministers and officials also discussed construction of temporary housing for the victims and improving access to drinking water and health care services.

The investigation commission said it will release its findings on April 23, after it submits its findings to the president. It said the report had been delayed by another outbreak of religious violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Meikhtila, central Burma, last month that left at least 43 people dead and another 9,000 homeless.