Return to Arakan IDP Camp, Kaman Migrants in Rangoon Told

By Lawi Weng 22 December 2015

RANGOON — The Kaman National Progressive Party (KNPP) is pushing back against an order by immigration authorities that 22 ethnic Kaman Muslims living in Rangoon return to Arakan State, where they previously lived in a displacement camp following communal violence in 2012.

Tin Hlaing Win, the Rangoon-based general secretary of the KNPP, said Tuesday that his party had sent letters to the National League for Democracy (NLD) and President Thein Sein, asking the government not to send the 22 people back to Arakan State.

“Our Kaman have the right to travel in the country, based on the 2008 Constitution, as they have citizenship ID cards. This is why there is nothing wrong with them being in Rangoon. However, immigration came to check on them and told them to go back to Arakan,” Tin Hlaing Win told The Irrawaddy.

The men and women in question originally hailed from Ramree Township, where their houses were burned down during 2012 violence that pitted Arakanese Buddhists against Muslims in Arakan State. Following the violence, they had been living in a camp for the displaced.

Southern Arakan State is home to a sizeable population of ethnic Kaman Muslims, who are recognized as one of 135 “official ethnicities” of Burma entitled to citizenship. Though the state’s minority Rohingya Muslims—who are not recognized by the government as an official ethnic group—bore the brunt of the 2012 violence, Arakanese Buddhists and Kaman too were displaced to a lesser degree. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said this month that there are about 140,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Arakan State, most of whom are Rohingya.

The KNPP leader said hardships at the camp in Ramree Township, including a dearth of employment prospects, had led the 22 Kaman to try their luck in Rangoon, while some of the younger migrants had wanted to continue their studies at Rangoon University.

The group traveled to the commercial capital about a month ago, and began getting pressure from immigration authorities last week, according to Tin Hlaing Win.

“The immigration told us that these 22 people did not inform the camp authority when they left the camp. Therefore, immigration told us that they have to send them back to Ramree camp,” he said.

The internal migrants are living at a number of different locations in Rangoon, and an official from the Rangoon Division Immigration and National Registration Department who asked not to be named said the instruction for their return was made according to “official procedures” and that there were no other motivating factors.

The Irrawaddy’s Thu Zar contributed reporting.