World Bank Denies Blocking Myanmar Projects to Pressure Govt on Rohingya Return

By Nan Lwin 4 July 2018

YANGON — The World Bank has denied a report from Bangladesh that it has stopped approving projects in Myanmar in order to pressure Naypyitaw to peacefully repatriate displaced Rohingya to Rakhine State in accordance with an MoU signed between the government and two UN agencies.

“We have no plans to halt ongoing projects in Myanmar. We confirm that we will continue to support new projects in Myanmar, especially in Rakhine State,” said the World Bank’s Myanmar communications officer, U Kyaw Soe Lynn.

On July 2, Bangladesh’s The Independent newspaper reported that the World Bank had stopped approving projects for Myanmar as part of international moves to pressure Naypyitaw to facilitate the peaceful return of Rohingya people currently sheltering in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The story quoted Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith after his meeting with World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim in Dhaka.

Kim and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited a Rohingya camp in southeast Bangladesh near the Myanmar border on July 2. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to camps in the area from Myanmar since a security crackdown was launched by the Myanmar military last August.

The World Bank last week promised to provide US$480 million to Bangladesh to support its Rohingya assistance operations.

The false report of a suspension of World Bank activity in Myanmar spread rapidly on social media after some local media outlets translated the Independent’s story and published it on their websites in Burmese.

“There might be some misunderstanding,” said U Kyaw Soe Lynn regarding the Bangladesh finance minister’s comment.

“I have received phone calls from government officials asking whether we had really stopped approving projects in Myanmar,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“Our projects will continue to focus on peace, social inclusion and economic transition across the country. We will start new programs to build peaceful and prosperous communities in Rakhine State,” he added.

The World Bank’s vice president for East Asia and Pacific, Victoria Kwakwa, is due to visit Myanmar from July 8 to 10. She will meet State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, other high-ranking government officials and relevant stakeholders in the bank’s partnership with Myanmar. According to a statement issued by the World Bank, she will discuss the use of resources from the International Development Association for investments to enhance social inclusion and foster peace within the country.

The World Bank is supporting the government’s implementation of its MoU with the UNHCR and UNDP, and of the recommendations of the Annan Commission Report on Rakhine State, U Kyaw Soe Lynn said.

According to the World Bank statement, the bank has since 2012 committed US$2 billion in soft financing to support economic transition and peace building, focusing on improving school enrolment and learning outcomes, strengthening basic health services, extending rural electrification, increasing agricultural productivity and enhancing management of public resources.