SITTWE, Rakhine State — The Rakhine State Parliament on Friday approved a proposal to urge the union government not to resettle non-citizen Muslim refugees in southern Maungdaw Township.
Lawmaker U Tun Aung Thein, of Buthidaung Township, introduced the proposal to Parliament on Tuesday in consideration, he said, of national sovereignty, the security of the area’s mostly Buddhist ethnic Arakanese, and the rule of law.
Some 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since militant attacks on security outposts in the north of the state in late August triggered a massive military and police crackdown on 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.
Lawmakers discussed U Tun Aung Thein’s proposal on Friday and approved it after there were no objections.
“The minority Arakanese people and other tribes have fled their homes because of overwhelming fears. The whole area has fallen to the hands of non-Myanmar citizens,” said U Tun Aung Thein.
“Under such circumstances, resettlement of non-citizens in southern Maungdaw can harm sovereignty in the future. Locals have also released statements against resettlement of Bengalis in southern Maungdaw, and we must heed their desires,” he added.
Most people in Myanmar refer to the Rohingya as Bengalis, implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Most have been denied citizenship even after generations in Myanmar.
Lawmakers on Friday also objected to the government’s plan to establish eight Rohingya villages in southern Maungdaw as part of the repatriation process, arguing that illegal immigrants and terrorists could easily reach the area by sea.
“It is like opening a welcome center for illegal immigrants and terrorists to establish Bengali villages in southern Maungdaw because it is adjacent to the sea. The government should be especially aware that a mistake at this time could result in a big mistake that can’t be compensated in the future,” said lawmaker U Aung Win, of Myebon Township.
Major Aung Zin Than, a military appointee to the state Parliament, also spoke against establishing Rohingya villages in southern Maungdaw, where there is no border fence.
Rakhine State Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Aye Thein said he had no reason to object to the lawmakers’ discussion but asked them to recognize the international pressure the union government was under regarding the Rohingya.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.