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Rakhine IDPs told to leave monastery shelters

Rakhine villagers who have fled fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army have been told by the authorities that they cannot remain in temporary shelters in Buddhist monasteries.

By Ye Mon and Thu Thu Aung
January 20, 2016

Refugees of fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army take shelter in the Kyi Yar Pyin monastery IDP camp on January 14. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times

Volunteer aid workers said more than 300 civilians, all Rakhine Buddhists, had sought refuge in three monasteries and were confused over their future. Some villagers who were press-ganged by the Tatmadaw into working as porters and guides during the fighting from December 28 to January 4 had been told earlier they could not return to their homes for three years.

Ko Kyaw Kyaw San, a villager from Kyi Yar Pyin in Mrauk-U township, said that district and township officials, accompanied by police, had visited the temporary IDP camp there and told people to leave by tomorrow and stay with relatives.

“Most of the IDPs do not want to move from the camps because of security [fears]. Some don’t have any place to go to, and they don’t know what to do,’’ Ko Kyaw Kyaw San said.

U Tun Thar Sein, a politician of the Arakan National Party, which wants to form the next state government after polling strongly in last November’s elections, said Rakhine Chief Minister U Mya Aung told IDPs on January 17 that the authorities would help IDPs find a place to stay.

But the displaced villagers did not know the details of when and where they would go, the ANP politician said.

“The minister said the conflict zones were not under the control of law enforcement bodies. That is why there was fighting. The government will arrange proper places for IDPs,” U Tun Thar Sein said.

Civilians are wary of travelling in Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U townships, fearingpossible abduction by the Tatmadaw which has pledged to “eliminate” the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group set up in 2009 and mainly based in Kachin State to the north.

U Thuwanna, a senior monk from a monastery housing about 70 IDPs in Ywar Ma Pyin village in Kyauktaw township, told The Myanmar Times that he had received no instructions from the authorities over moving IDPs.

“The conflict zone is still under military control. No one dares to go back,” he said.

U Zaw Win, an aid worker, said the government should guarantee the safety of civilians if it wanted them to return.

“No IDP wants to go home in the current situation because the military announced it would eliminate the AA. So the fighting can happen at any time,” he said.

He also suggested the authorities were afraid of a loss of face wheninternational organisations saw the camps, even though Rakhine State already has some 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, living in squalid camps sincecommunal violence flared in 2012.

The chief minister was unavailable for comment.

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