Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Myanmar junta plans to build 15 villages for Rohingya returnees from Bangladesh as pilot project

Myanmar’s junta government plans to take back 1,500 Rohingyas from Bangladesh in April. They have undertaken a pilot project to build 15 new villages for their housing system. Villages will be established on 750 plots.

Rakhine state junta chief Hitin Lin was quoted by pro-junta media as saying Rohingyas returning to Bangladesh will first be held in the Hla Pho Khaung temporary camp for two months. Before that, they will be checked at Taung Pyo Letwe and Nagar Khu Ya refugee camps in Maungdoo city. Later they will be sent to new villages.

According to a US government-funded Radio Free Asia report, 1 million displaced Rohingya entered Bangladesh in 2017. Most of them want to return home. However, they are not willing to repatriate unless they are sent back to their homes. They demand that civil rights, freedom of travel or equal rights with other nationalities be guaranteed. Khin Mong, director of Cox’s Bazar Rohingya Youth Association, said people have doubts about the purpose of the junta’s pilot program. The number of persecuted Rohingyas is more than 1 million. If the Myanmar junta is honest with the refugees, they must be resettled on the mainland. Civil rights should be given. But the Myanmar junta has not mentioned anything in this regard. They are trying to implement this project to prove themselves good in front of the international community.

Recently, a delegation of 17 members from Myanmar, led by Rakhine State Immigration Minister Myo Aung, visited Bangladesh. They also interviewed some Rohingya families for their project. The junta’s deputy information minister, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told AFP the pilot program could begin in mid-April.

The Myanmar government said last Thursday that it plans to repatriate another 5,000 Rohingya if the pilot project is successfully implemented. Following the announcement of the new project, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the repatriation plan would not be favorable to the Rohingya in the current volatile situation in Rakhine.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR acknowledged in a statement earlier this week that taking Myanmar junta officials to Bangladeshi refugee camps was risky. Rights activists have criticized this. Such an act is a serious violation of the neutrality of the United Nations.

About 14,000 Rohingya have been living in Rakhine refugee camps for more than a decade following ethnic violence in Rakhine state in 2012, according to the report. Many of them have sold their assets and moved to Malaysia or other countries. Many have died while crossing abroad. Some are missing or imprisoned.

From December 2021 to March 2023, about 2,000 Rohingya have been arrested on their way to Malaysia from refugee camps in Rakhine State. About 500 of them have been sentenced by the junta to two to five years in prison under Myanmar’s immigration law. There is no employment system for the Rohingyas here. They have to rely on a small amount of money from the World Food Programme.

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