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Rakhine IDPs call for international aid

Organisers of makeshift camps for villagers fleeing a military offensive in remote areas of Rakhine State are appealing to the international community for aid.

Women gather water near the Kyi Yar Pyin monastery IDP camp in Rakhine State yesterday.( Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times)

By Ye Mon
January 15, 2016

More than 300 civilians, all of whom are said to be ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, have fled to the safety of monasteries following fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army. A week of clashes on the fringes of Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships subsided on January 5, but more offensives are feared following the military’s warning last week that it intends to “eliminate” the ethnic armed group.

Camps have been set up in Kyi Yar Pyin village and Zaydi Taung village in Mrauk-U and also in Ywar Ma Pyin village in Kyauktaw township.

U Kyaw Kyaw San, who is managing the Kyi Yar Pyin monastery camp, told The Myanmar Times that international NGOs and United Nations agencies had not provided any aid as yet, but that they had come to assess the situation of the IDPs.

“We really need their aid, especially warm clothes and utensils,” he said.

Some of the displaced villagers say the Tatmadaw have been forcibly recruiting men as porters and guides. In some cases they have been told not to return to their homes for three years, raising fears that temporary shelters might turn into long-term camps.

Camp leaders are pinning their hopes on aid coming quickly from UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council.

Sayadaw U Thuwanna, a monk leading the Ywar Ma Pyin monastery camp, said yesterday that they were receiving aid from local donors but that he does not believe they can last anywhere near three years on such donations.

“The military already told villagers not to return to their villages for three years. So we need to think for the future of these IDPs. International aid will be useful for the long term. Local aid is just short-term. INGOs should give aid quickly,” U Thuwanna said.

A worker in the Zaydi Taung monastery camp also called on international agencies to provide help soon.

A UN spokesperson said on January 14, “OCHA [Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] is liaising closely with the relevant authorities and on January 7 led an interagency humanitarian assessment to the sites hosting the displaced people. While the most urgent needs are being met by local organisations and the authorities, the UN and international NGOs are ready to provide support if further humanitarian needs arise.”

The UN is already stretched and underfunded in covering the needs of civilians displaced by conflicts in Rakhine State – which also has some 120,000 Muslims living in camps since intercommunal violence erupted in 2012 – and IDPs in Kachin and Shan states.

The UN World Food Programme said this week that its Food Security Sector plan would continue to provide food assistance to 210,000 IDPs across the three states.

The WFP said full rations for all IDPs were secured only until the end of April if new funding was not available as soon as possible. Its top five funding partners are Japan, the United States, the European Union, Australia and Switzerland.

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