Rohingya Complain About Myanmar’s Relocation Plans to ‘Flooded’ Camp

By Khine Rola 23 December 2020

Sittwe — The Rakhine State government is planning to relocate a camp for displaced Rohingya Muslims near Kyauk Ta Lone pagoda in Kyaukphyu Township.

The plan to close the camp is part of a national resettlement strategy by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement adopted in 2018.

Land has been developed near Gone Chein village around 200 meters from the Kyauk Ta Lone camp to resettle the Rohingya and home building will begin soon, according to the state government.

“The current camp is only a shelter but the new camp will have detached houses like a village,” said state municipal minister U Win Myint.

Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. Win Myat Aye, Rakhine Chief Minister U Nyi Pu, other ministers and representatives of the Kyauk Ta Lone camp held an online meeting on Monday to discuss the relocation.

According to the discussions, a new highway express bus terminal will help the Rohingya find work.

Preparations at the proposed site. / Ko Phyu Che

“We have so far prepared the land. And we have plans to open a new bus terminal near the village for their livelihoods,” said U Win Myint.

The Union government has approved investment of 2.1 billion kyats (US$1.6 million), according to the state government, from the presidential emergency fund to relocate the Kyauk Ta Lone camp. The Union Parliament approved the budget in May.

The money will be spent on the construction of 363 houses, a school, flushing toilets, a warehouse, clinic and gravel roads, providing running water and electricity, and compensation to the current landowners.

However, the proposed site is largely on an environmentally valuable mangrove swamp and suffers from flooding in the rainy season, claimed the Rohingya, who called for the right to return to the site of their urban homes.

Kyauk Ta Lone IDP camp. / Ko Phyu Che

Camp manager Ko Phyu Che said: “The proposed site is around 400 meters from the current camp. The government has started work using backhoes. It is a muddy, mangrove swamp. So we want to go back to our original land, such as Pike Seik and Pyin Phyu Paw [in urban Kyaukphyu].”

“The new site will be waist-deep once it rains. Over 900 wells have been dug but there is no water. It is about 600 meters from the main road and there is no paved road. In front of the new site are only military-owned farms,” he added.

U Win Myint said it was not possible to move the Rohingya back to central Kyaukphyu for fears of renewed sectarian violence.

“They said they want to live in Kyaukphyu but it depends whether residents can accept them. If another round of violence arises, the situation will get worse. We have to consider this,” said the minister.

Kyauk Ta Lone IDP camp. / Ko Phyu Che

Lawmakers have largely welcomed the state government’s plans for a new site.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Poe San said: “The new location is close to Gone Chein village. It is better because problems can arise if they move back to Kyaukphyu.”

The camp was opened to house Muslims following waves of sectarian violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims in the state in 2012. Around 1,000 people from about 360 households in urban Kyaukphyu are currently at the camp.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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