More than 100,000 internally displaced persons—victims of this past year’s communal violence in Rakhine State—are to be re-sheltered in temporary housing within the next week, according to Win Myaing, the secretary of the Documentation Information Department in the Rakhine State Government.
He said that, with cooperation between the Myanmar government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 1,500 shelters have been built in eight townships.
“The construction part is all done,” he said, pointing out that housing is now available in Sittwe and Maungdaw where the majority of IDPs are sheltering, but also in Mrauk-U, Min Pyar, Rathedaung, Kyaukphyu, Pauktaw and Myebon.
In recent weeks, plans to relocate the displaced Muslim IDPs have been met with fierce resistance; in at least two incidents riot police have opened fire on protesters, killing at least five people in total.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to relocate them, even if they don’t want to move,” said Win Myaing.
The UN has condemned the recent outbreak of violence between Buddhists and Rohingyas and appealed for measures to be taken to avoid further communal conflict in strife-torn Rakhine State in a statement released on Monday.
“The recent incidents show that urgent actions are needed,” said Eamon Murphy, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar. “We do not have the luxury of time and the present situation should not be allowed to continue,” he said.
The latest wave of violence in the state erupted when two Muslims were allegedly shot dead and six injured by police at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) on June 27.
On Sunday evening, Mizzima reported that at least three Rohingya houses were burned down in the seaport city of Thandwe and several others were set alight. While no one was reported to have been injured, angry sword- and baton-wielding mobs were seen wandering and on motorbikes in the streets.
The Rakhine State government previously denied reports that security forces had killed three Rohingya women while protesting against being relocated at an IDP camp in Parein in early June.
The women were involved in a protest at the camp against being relocated to new shelters when police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd. Four others were injured in the incident.
“The death of the three Muslim women is still under investigation,” said Hla Thein, the chairman of the state’s Information Team at a press conference on June 6, referencing reports that the women had been stabbed and that the killings took place during an ensuing fight between villagers.
“It is important that preventive measures are taken as quickly as possible so the violence does not spread further,” said Murphy, who appealed for further relocations of IDPs to be based on “consultation and voluntariness”.
He also called for action to be taken by the government to build “broader confidence and trust” between the communities. This should start with “clear communication of the government’s vision and plans for the short and long term for all people in Rakhine State, particularly those currently displaced,” he said.
Up to 140,000 people have been displaced in the region since communal unrest began a little more than a year ago in violent clashes that left 200 dead.
The UN envoy Tomás Ojea Quintana previously stated that the conditions of the camps in Rakhine State were more like “prisons”.
At least three houses belonging to Muslims have been burned down in Ann Daw Township in the seaport city of Thandwe in Rakhine State, following an altercation between members of the Kamman community and Buddhist Rakhines on Sunday evening.
No deaths or injuries have so far been reported, and a curfew has now been called in the township.
Mizzima confirmed at 9:30 pm on Sunday that three homes belonging to Muslim families were on fire. Rumors circulated that other buildings in the nearby quarter of Kalarsu had also been set alight.
No security forces appeared to be present; sources said that police had been mobilized in the downtown area of Thandwe.
Gangs of people carrying swords and batons were seen wandering around or on motorcycles in the city center, including a mob in the street near the City Hall.
Some residents told Mizzima that the riot had started because of rumors that a Muslim man had raped an underage girl. Others said a territory dispute between Rakhine and Muslim trishaw riders has escalated into violence.
The percentage of Muslims to Rakhines in central Thandwe is about 50-50. However, just a handful of Rohingya residents live in Ann Daw where the arson took place.
Clashes between the Rohingya and Rakhine communities erupted in June last year over an alleged incident whereby a young Rakhine woman was raped by three Rohingya men, a case which is still ongoing.
Two Muslims were shot dead and six others wounded when security forces opened fire at a camp for some of those displaced by last year's violence in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state, the UN refugee agency said Friday.
The incident, on Thursday morning, took place as security forces tried to break up a dispute at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp in Pauktaw, home to at least 4,400 displaced people—mainly Rohingya Muslims whose homes were torched in deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine locals.
"Gunfire was used by the authorities to disperse the crowd, resulting in the fatalities and wounding," the UNHCR said in a statement, adding two of the wounded were minors.
It was unclear if the casualties were Rohingya, according to a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, explaining the camp is home to both the ethnic group and Kaman Muslims.
"We are appealing to the authorities to handle the matter in a peaceful and calm way to avoid fuelling further violence and loss of life.
A spokesman for Rakhine State government confirmed that two Muslims were killed in the incident.
Up to 140,000 people—mainly Rohingya—were displaced in two waves of sectarian unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine last year that left about 200 people dead.
The majority still languish in unsanitary camps prompting the UN to warn of the dangers disease poses to the vulnerable camp residents as the monsoon rains continue to batter the region.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and, since the unrest, thousands have fled the region by sea.
Outbreaks of deadly communal unrest have dampened international optimism about the Myanmar's extensive political and economic reforms as it emerges from decades of harsh military rule.
Religious unrest has also broken out elsewhere in the ethnically diverse country, with dozens of people dying in violence in central Myanmar in March that mainly targeted Muslims.
A policeman has been charged with trafficking after a Rohingya woman was allegedly lured from a shelter in southern Thailand and subsequently raped by a man from the refugee Muslim minority, police told AFP Friday.
It is believed to be the first time a Thai official has been charged with trafficking of Rohingya boat people, despite probes into alleged people smuggling by authorities including the army.
The officer is accused of driving the 25-year-old victim along with her daughters, aged 12 and nine, and two other women, from the shelter in Phang Nga in late May.
The woman was told she would be taken to Malaysia to be reunited with her husband, who is also from the minority group, but was instead held at several places in the region in an ordeal lasting several weeks, police said.
The woman was allegedly raped repeatedly by the Rohingya man, believed to have worked as a translator at the shelter, who has been charged for the assault.
The victim and her children were found on a roadside and returned to the shelter last week when she contacted the police.
"The officer has been charged with taking part in human trafficking and abuse of his position," Police Colonel Weerasin Kwansaeng, commander of Kuraburi Police Station told AFP.
"The victim said he drove the car from the shelter," he said, adding it was the first time charges had been brought against police over the trafficking of Rohingya.
Dozens of Rohingya women and children who fled communal violence in Myanmar, are housed at the shelter while hundreds of men from the ethnic group are being held at an immigration detention centre in the same province.
Rights groups have repeatedly voiced concerns over the treatment of destitute Rohingya refugees by Thai authorities, saying they are held in poor conditions and are vulnerable to exploitation.
The rape "demonstrates the vulnerability of Rohingya women to human traffickers—even when they are living in government-run shelters where they should be protected", said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
In January Thai authorities opened an investigation into allegations that army officials were involved in trafficking Rohingya.
Around 2,000 Rohingya refugees remain in detention in Thailand while authorities wait for a third country to offer to accept them.
Described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups in the world, Rohingya have for years trickled abroad to neighbouring Bangladesh and, increasingly, to Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.
An explosion of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine since June 2012 has triggered a huge exodus of Rohingya, mostly heading for Malaysia.
Hundreds are feared to have drowned during the perilous sea voyage on rickety and overcrowded boats, while others have been rescued as far away as Sri Lanka.
In a statement released on June 11 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said that the fatal shooting last week of three Rohingya women participating in a peaceful protest in Rakhine State is the latest shocking example of how law enforcement officials operate with complete impunity in the country.
Quintana’s comments come ahead of an expected statement on Myanmar this week by the President of the UN Human Rights Council, but would seemed to defy official reports from the Rakhine State government which said that allegations the police shot the women were in question.
According to Quintana: “The human rights violations being committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine State are widespread and systematic, and there continues to be absolutely no accountability for what is occurring there. There is no way of glossing over this state of affairs with the genuine progress that is being made in other areas.”
He continued: “The Government of Myanmar has an obligation to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into incidents such as these, and to hold those responsible to account. However, since the violence in Rakhine State first erupted last June, I have seen absolutely no evidence that the Government is fulfilling this obligation.”
The UN envoy said he had received consistent and credible allegations of a wide range of human rights violations being committed against the Rohingya and wider Muslim population in Rakhine State.
“Allegations include ‘sweeps’ of Muslim villages where men and boys are arbitrarily detained, tortured in detention and then denied their due process rights, including access to legal counsel and a fair trial. Muslim women in these villages are left increasingly vulnerable to rape and sexual violence by security officials conducting these ‘sweeps’ as the men seek to escape arbitrary detention,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“In my report to the Human Rights Council in March, I said that if the Rakhine Investigation Commission fails to properly address allegations of human rights violations, I will offer my support to the Government to pursue further investigations. I reiterate my offer of support to the Government to address the impunity which is enabling widespread and systematic human rights violations to continue against the most vulnerable of all ethnic minority groups in Myanmar,” he said.
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