SITTWE, Rakhine State — The Rakhine State government will close camps for displaced persons who have fled violence in northern Rakhine State by Nov. 2, said the Rakhine State minister for electricity, industry and transportation U Aung Kyaw Zan.
According to the minister, camps in Sittwe, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Minbya townships will be closed as the situation has returned to normal in those areas and many have already left the camps and returned home.
“We are not forcibly evicting them. We are closing [the camps] because there are only a few people left in camps,” the minister told The Irrawaddy.
While some 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 militant attacks prompted a brutal Myanmar Army response in Maungdaw district, thousands of local ethnic people including Arakanese, Mro, and Daingnet as well as Hindus also fled to Sittwe and other townships, though many have now returned home.
According to the government, more than 6,000 people were taking shelter at camps in Sittwe directly after the militant attacks. Currently only five camps—two ethnic Arakanese camps, one Maramagyi camp and two Hindu camps—are operating in Sittwe as many have returned.
More than 600 people are still taking shelter at a Hindu camp in Danyawaddy sports ground and more than 300 at Maramagyi camp. Some 400 Hindus are sheltering at Kyaung Tet Lan ward.
About 1,400 Hindu people who were taking shelter at Danyawaddy sports ground and two Hindu temples in Kyaung Tet Lan and Kyaung Gyi Lan wards of Sittwe who have recently returned to their villages are having trouble with accommodation and food, said vice-chairman U Maung Hla of the Rakhine State Hindu Religion Foundation (Sittwe Branch).
“Those who have gone back phoned me and said that camps in their home areas will not accept them. They said they have no place to live and are also having trouble finding sufficient food,” he said.
They have to stay at their relatives’ houses and monasteries, he said, adding that Hindu spiritual leaders in Sittwe have provided some rice for them.
“We still want to stay [in the camp] though we’re concerned that the government might not like it if we stay. We are concerned about our safety if we go back. Unless the government has a resettlement plan, we’d like to stay here,” said U Ni Mal, a Hindu community leader taking shelter at Danyawaddy sportsground.
U Ni Mal hopes that the government would resettle Hindus together at a place close to the main road and the Buddhist community.
Minister U Aung Kyaw Zan said that Hindu and Maramagyi people may continue to stay at the camp if they wish.
“We won’t force them to leave. We will let them stay here if they want,” said the minister.
The state government informed camp organizers about planned closure of the camps on Oct. 27, saying that camps are to be closed by Nov. 2 and the government would stop food and cash supplies for the camps on that day.