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No respite for Rohingya in resettlement areas

Embattled Muslim group shunted from squalid IDP camps to new homes in Myanmar befouled by poor sanitation and sewage

No respite for Rohingya in resettlement areas

An ill Rohingya teenager is helped by his parents at the Khaung Doke Khar IDP refugee camp near Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar's Rakhine State, in this Sept. 13, 2017 file photo. (ucanews.com photo)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

May 9, 2018

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims who recently moved to a new resettlement area in Myanmar's Rakhine State are struggling to make ends meet and find enough food to eat while living in cramped, unsanitary conditions, they say.

Myanmar authorities have moved to close four camps for internally displaced Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee their homes after communal violence broke out in 2012.

One of the temporary bases for internally displaced persons (IDP) slated for closure is Taung Paw camp in Myaebon. Although the government has not yet released a date for when it will be shuttered, about 50 of the 642 families have moved to new homes nearby since the start of May.

Yet many have been disappointed to find the conditions in the resettlement areas are not much better, including drainage problems that leave the smell of sewage permeating the air.

They say their ability to freely roam the resettlement is also being heavily restricted and that the houses are too small. Food supplies is also a major issue. 

"Our main concern is that the food rations being provided by the World Food Programme [WFP] may be cut off soon as rumors are spreading that there will be no more humanitarian assistance," Anawar Begum told ucanews.com.

The 21-year-old moved to the new resettlement area recently with four siblings and parents in tow but said it is not much different from the IDP camp they just left.

Rohingya refugees line up for food rations provided by the World Food Program at the Khaung Doke Khar camp for internally displaced persons near Sittwe in Myanmar in this Sept. 13, 2017 file photo. (ucanews.com photo)

  

 

Rhohima Begum, who arrived a week ago with six relations, said one of their chief concerns is the flooding that will attend the coming monsoon.

"This was our only option as we knew we couldn't go back to our real homes," the 32 year old told ucanews.com.

"Everyday we worry about whether the rations and healthcare provided by the international NGOs will keep coming or grind to a halt," she added.

Aung Thu Rein visited the camp in Myaebon on May 2 in his capacity as director of the Committee for Implementation Recommendations on Rakhine State.

He helped oversee the relocation of people to their new dwellings and said that more houses are being built, according to reports in the state-run media the following day.

Cho Cho, who identifies herself as being a Muslim from Rakhine, said people in the resettlement area are fed up after spending six years at the IDP camp living in conditions most would consider unacceptable.

"The problem is we don't have a voice. We are powerless," said Cho Cho, who is still waiting to be assigned a house. "All we can do is pray."

In addition to Taung Paw, which has taken in over 3,000 IDPs, Myanmar is also shuttering Thetkaepyin (6,000 people) and Khaung Doke Khar (4,300) camps near Sittwe and Nidi (546) in Kyauktaw.

Rohingya children collect drinking water at Khaung Doke Khar camp. (ucanews.com photo)

 

More than 120,000 Rohingya are still living in IDP camps in conditions that human rights groups have blasted for not being up to scratch, meaning they have little access to healthcare, education or employment.

Many remain terrified of what awaits them should they return to the towns and villages of their birth after deadly episodes of violence broke out between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya starting in 2012.

The Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine has recommended the Myanmar government take steps to end the enforced segregation of the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya by closing down all of the IDP camps and providing unfettered humanitarian access.

In April 2017, the military-led government shut down three of the camps that housed ethnic Rakhine, Kaman Muslims and Rohingya.

Over 600,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 after suffering further persecution during a military-led crackdown beginning in August that was reportedly sparked by militant attacks.

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