The Rakhine state government in western Myanmar will close three internally displaced persons camps, as recommended by an advisory commission appointed by the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to help resolve the religious and ethnic divisions in the unstable region, a state official said Wednesday.
The camps house Kaman Muslims, ethnic Rakhine people, and Rohingya Muslims who have been living in them since 2012 when they were displaced by communal violence.
“We are doing it as they [the internally displaced persons] want,” Min Aung, Rakhine state’s municipal minister, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“They need cars and trucks to move out of the camps,” he said. “We have discussed it with a military colonel who is the official that oversees these camps.”
Min Aung did not give a timetable for the closure of the camps or provide details about where the camps’ inhabitants would live.
Appointed in August 2016, the nine-member advisory commission headed by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan has visited Rakhine several times to meet with camp residents, state officials, and ethnic Rakhine and Muslim community leaders to discuss conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the divided and impoverished state.
The committee had already begun its work when the Myanmar government ordered a security crackdown in the northern part of Rakhine state last October following a deadly attack on border guard posts, which officials later blamed on Rohingya militants.
An estimated 1,000 people were killed during the four-month crackdown, and 77,000 Rohingya fled to safety in neighboring Bangladesh where some accused soldiers of committing human rights violations against them.
The reports sparked allegations by the international community of genocide of the Rohingya Muslims who live in northern Rakhine state.
Though the commission is not responsible for evaluating the human rights situation in Rakhine, it did suggest in an interim report issued in March that the government should immediately begin allowing displaced Rohingya to return to their homes in Rakhine and eventually shut down the internal camps where more than 120,000 have resided following communal violence with Buddhist nationalists in 2012.
The report included 30 recommendations, including allowing humanitarian groups and media to visit conflict areas in Rakhine, providing equal access to health care and education, training police, recognizing Rohingya as Myanmar citizens and giving them citizen’s rights, and resettling the Rohingya.
The Myanmar government agreed with the findings and said it would implement the majority of its recommendations.
The commission must also submit a final report on its findings to the government this year.
More than 1.1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims, whom the Burmese call “Bengalis” because they consider them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, have long been subjected to persecution and attacks and denied basic rights, including citizenship by the Buddhist majority in Rakhine state.
Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.