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Relocated to Yangon, Kaman Muslims face lack of job prospects, housing

A Kaman woman feeds chickens at a poultry farm in Hmawbi Township, Yangon (Photo: Phyo Thiha Cho/Myanmar Now)

By Phyo Thiha Cho
July 30, 2017

Yangon— After fleeing violence, enduring refugee camp life, and relocating to the country’s biggest city, dozens of Kaman Muslim families continue to struggle with day-to-day problems of housing and unemployment.

“Life is more difficult in Yangon,” said 69-year-old Aye Myat Nu, who worked as a midwife before her house was burned down during intercommunal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State in 2012.

The fighting sent more than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims into internal displacement camps. Thousands of Kaman, who unlike the Rohingya are recognized by the government as an ethnic group, faced a similar fate at first.

But a handful of the Kaman camps in Rakhine State’s Kyaukpyu, Pauktaw and Ramree townships have closed, and authorities provided air tickets and financial support for a total of 55 families to move to Yangon in early July. 

Most of them are now taking shelter on a 4-acre plot of land owned by the civil society group the Kaman Social Network in Hmawbi Township.

Aye Myat Nu said authorities provided 500,000 kyats ($368) for each family, 100,000 kyats ($74) for each person and free air tickets. 

But the assistance was only a start. 

Min Naing, vice chairman of of the Kaman Social Network, said the government needs to offer better housing and job opportunities.

“We are Myanmar citizens, and the government has a responsibility to protect our lives,” he said.

Getting by in Yangon has proven difficult for some as methods of earning a living have changed. Khin Khin Nu, 65, earns 3,000 kyats ($2.2) from feeding chicken in a nearby poultry farm.

“I worked as a seamstresses in Ramree. But I have many difficulties now as I am old,” she said. 

Aye Myat Nu, the former midwife, now depends on her family for subsistence.

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, visited the Kaman in Yangon on July 10 as part of her sixth visit to the country.

The Kaman’s official status has pitted them against the Rohingya at times.

In 2014, the Kaman National Progressive Party issued a statement saying they would stand with the Rakhine people in opposing the use of the term Rohingya.

The government and the Buddhist residents of the state use the word “Bengali,” meant to imply non-native origins in Bangladesh.

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