RANGOON — More than 4,000 ethnic Kaman Muslims in Arakan State remain in need of new houses after their homes were destroyed during intercommunal violence in 2012, according to the Kaman National Development Party, which is working to get government support for a rebuilding effort.
About 500 Kaman houses were burned down in Sittwe, Yanbye and Kyaukphyu townships during the violence, which pitted Buddhists against Muslims and left more than 100 dead in the western state.
Some of the displaced now live in nearby camps set up by the government, while others went to live with relatives in Rangoon or elsewhere, according to Tin Hlaing Win, secretary of the Kaman National Development Party.
The situation in the camps has deteriorated since the violence, said Tin Hlaing Win, who told The Irrawaddy that “the Kaman do not deserve to live in camps.”
“When the president went to visit Thandwe, he was shown almost 100 rebuilt homes out of more than 100 [destroyed],” he said, referring to a subsequent spate of violence in Thandwe in September 2013. “But in Yanbye, Kyaukphyu and Sittwe, the area is still just burned out fields.”
More than 100 buildings in Yanbye, including four religious structures, were destroyed in 2012. Another 100 in Kyaukphyu and almost 200 in Sittwe were also razed in the rioting.
The Kaman National Development Party has asked the Arakan State government, its Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn and Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann to resettle the affected Kaman internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“We requested that they rebuild our lost property just as [they did for] ethnic Rakhine [Arakanese], because the state is stable now,” Tin Hlaing Win said.
The state’s chief minister has scheduled to meet with representatives from the Kaman party on April 28 to discuss possible resettlement plans.
“They do not have homes to go back to. If the houses that were burned down and destroyed are rebuilt, everybody will resettle. Because we are ethnic, we would like to get our rights according to the law,” he said, referring to the fact that Kaman Muslims, unlike the state’s persecuted Rohingya, are recognized as an official ethnic group under the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.
There are about 20,000 Kaman currently living in Arakan State, Tin Hlaing Win said.
The 2012 violence displaced about 140,000 people, most of them Rohingya Muslims but also ethnic Kaman and Rakhine Buddhists. The vast majority of the affected Rohingya Muslims remain in squalid camps on the outskirts of Sittwe and other townships in northern Arakan State, where humanitarian conditions were described last year as “deplorable” by the UN human rights rapporteur for Burma.
The government does not recognize Rohingya Muslims as one of Burma’s 135 official ethnic groups, denying them the rights of citizenship and referring to them as “Bengalis,” implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite many having lived in Arakan State for generations.
A draft Rakhine Action Plan revealed in September 2014 does instruct that the government “allocate land and build accommodations for displaced Bengali communities” in the affected townships, but the plan has drawn condemnation from human rights groups because a separate component would consign any Rohingya who refuse to identify as Bengali to temporary detention camps.
Additional reporting by Andrew D. Kaspar.