Burma

Myanmar’s Military Asked to Ensure Rakhine IDP Safety

By Khine Rola 19 January 2021

Sittwe, Rakhine State — The Rakhine State government has asked the Western Command of Myanmar’s military to ensure safety for returning internally displaced people (IDPs).

The state government counted the IDPs at camps last month to assist their return and the IDPs asked for their safety to be ensured.

“The Western Command will check which townships, wards and villages are safe to return. The IDPs will be able to return in safety. I had an informal talk with the commander about it. He said he would make the check when he is back from a trip. We have also sent a formal letter,” said Rakhine State’s military-appointed minister for security and border affairs, Colonel Min Than.

The state government also sent the list of potential returnees in each township to the Western Command, said Col. Min Than.

“As clashes have ceased since November, we consulted with the chief minister to adopt plans for the return of IDPs. The plan is mainly about how much rice we should give them and what follow-up assistance to give them after their return,” he said.

A total of 201 people registered to return in Sittwe, 117 in Ponnagyun, 9,893 in Kyauktaw, 2,202 in Ann, totaling 12,413, according to Col. Min Than.

With an informal ceasefire being observed with the Arakan Army (AA) since November after two years of fighting in northern Rakhine and Chin State’s Paletwa Township, some IDPs have been returning to their homes voluntarily.

U Oo Tun Hline from Shwe Parami camp in Rathedaung Township said he is spreading his time between the camp and his village. “As all the houses in our village are damaged, we went to repair them. And we harvested the paddy. There are others people who spread their time between the camp and their villages, like me. The village is relatively stable now but we have concerns to move back in permanently,” he said.

State lawmakers have called on the government to create livelihoods for returning IDPs and make sure troops withdraw from villages.

“People must be able to travel freely. There remain many inspections in some places and people must be able to travel freely for health and social reasons. And troops stationed at monasteries and schools in some villages must withdraw,” said Upper House lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt.

Chairman of Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) U Shwe Sein Baw said some villagers dare not return because of troop deployments.

“It is a good sign that military tensions have eased but we can’t say stability has been restored completely. Troops from both sides are still near villages and people are concerned that armed conflicts can erupt anytime. So problems will remain until both sides reach a solid agreement,” said U Shwe Sein Baw.

There were 234,915 IDPs at camps in Rakhine State in November last year and more than 50,000 of them have returned home since then, according to the REC.

As the government has declared the AA a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the armed group for a comment.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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