The Irrawaddy

UN and Myanmar Govt Release Plan to Rehabilitate Rakhine Villages

NAYPYITAW — The Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population has released a plan to rehabilitate about 30 villages in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in troubled Rakhine State.

“We’ve formed a working group, which will conduct a pilot project to rehabilitate, restore racial harmony and bring about socio-economic development in some 30 villages,” the minister for labor, immigration and population U Thein Swe told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will assist the ministry in the project, said the minister.

The project aims to spur equitable and harmonious development in Muslim, Hindu and ethnic villages. Repatriation will be successful only when there is increased trust between different communities, said the minister.

Some 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine for Bangladesh after militant attacks on security outposts in the north of the state in late August triggered a massive military and police crackdown in the area’s Muslim communities.

In November, Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to start repatriating the refugees on Jan. 22, but the process has been delayed.

A Bangladeshi minister is set to visit Myanmar this week. He will also visit northern Rakhine State and discussions will be held to continue repatriation according to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries.

“We will design a detailed work plan and implement rehabilitation work according to it. We will designate model villages and start the project there in cooperation with the UNDP and the UNHCR,” permanent secretary U Myint Thu of the Foreign Affairs Ministry told The Irrawaddy.

The officials of the UNDP, UNHCR and Myanmar government visited northern Rakhine from Saturday until Monday in order to select villages for the pilot project.

According to the MoU between the two UN agencies and the Myanmar government leaked to Reuters last month, the groups will implement three months and six months programs to facilitate repatriation.

“The parties agreed to keep it confidential. We have no comment regarding the leak. It was not leaked by us,” said U Myint Thu.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.