Myanmar’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement on Monday shrugged off a warning letter from the United Nations that threatened to withdraw support in Myanmar’s Rakhine state unless it allowed freedom of movement for Muslim Rohingya being held in domestic refugee camps.
“As far as I know, we haven’t gotten any letter indicating that the UN will stop [sending] assistance,” an official with the ministry told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“There is no statement focusing on the potential suspension of all aid to the country. There is one with process notes on what they are going to do in Kachin and Shan states. There is [also] a draft on what they want to implement in Rakhine state. I don’t know if any of them are referring to [any] possible suspension of aid,” the official said.
Myanmar operates several camps with a population 128,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims, who have been living in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps since 2012, when violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims left more than 200 people dead and displaced about 140,000 others, mostly Rohingya.
Because Myanmar views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, the country denies them citizenship and restricts their movements.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the letter, sent from U.N. resident coordinator Knut Ostby to Myanmar’s government, said that the U.N. planned to end support for anything more than “life-saving assistance,” in the camps which the government has deceptively classified as “closed” unless there is progress toward freedom of movement.
“We didn’t receive any letter from the U.N. that we consider to be negative so far in June,” said the ministry official.
“We are working closely with the U.N. and Knut [Ostby] is working closely with our minister,” the official said.
Aye Win, the spokesperson for the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Myanmar, confirmed to RFA that the letter was sent but refused to discuss its contents in detail.
RFA attempted to contact Union minister Win Myat Aye for comments but his offices was not answering calls.
In addition to the IDP camp residents, 720,000 or more Rohingya are sheltering in Bangladesh after being driven out by army campaigns in 2016 and 2017.
Reported by Ye Tike for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.