YANGON – At the request of the state government, all Hindu internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently sheltering in Danyawaddy football stadium in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe returned to Maungdaw on Tuesday, according to Hindu community leader U Ni Mal.
On Nov. 28, the Arakan State Cabinet summoned Hindu community leaders to discuss the relocation. After attending the meeting, U Ni Mal disclosed that the state government wants all Hindus moved from the temporary IDP camp, as it plans to hold a football tournament in the coming weeks.
According to U Ni Mal, the government informed displaced Hindus that a temporary structure has been constructed for them right behind the Maungdaw District administrative office. Regional authorities pledged Hindus would be allowed to return to the places they were living in before the Aug. 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Maungdaw.
In response to ARSA attacks, the Myanmar Army launched attacks on the group, which resulted in more than 620,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. The international community has accused government troops of committing ethnic cleansing during the operations.
The Myanmar and Bangladesh governments signed a Memorandum of Outstanding (MoU) on a refugee repatriation agreement a couple of weeks ago in Naypyidaw. But details have not been officially announced yet.
“No one wants to return to their place of origin, as entire villages were butchered by aggressive Bengali attackers. We don’t trust them. We told them it’s impossible,” said U Ni Mal.
Since the armed conflicts erupted in Maungdaw, more than 3,000 Hindus have fled to Sittwe Township and at least 1,200 have sought refuge in separate locations in Maungdaw district as well. As stability has been restored to the region, some Hindus have returned independently to Maungdaw. As of last week, 552 people remained in camps, with 352 returning on Sunday.
On Thursday, the remaining 200 people will be returned to Maungdaw. U Ni Mal said the state government would provide transportation and food for the displaced people.
U Ni Mal helped local authorities to unearth a mass grave containing the bodies of 45 Hindus in northern Maungdaw’s Ye Baw Kya village in September. More than 50 additional bodies have yet to be recovered, though eight Hindu women among those returning from Bangladesh have shown authorities a crime scene near Baw Talar village.
“Dozens of Hindus were slaughtered near Baw Talar creek, but the killers threw the bodies into the creek. So we can’t find them,” said U Ni Mal.
He said he had received death threats via phone from Muslims angered that he has cooperated with the authorities.
“They are pissed off at me as I assisted authorities to find Hindu corpses. Actually, I was helping to locate the bodies to assist grieving families and my relatives, but they accuse me of being a government man,” he said.