YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s government will manage the redevelopment of villages torched during violence in Rakhine state that has sent nearly half a million Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, a minister was reported yesterday as saying.
The plan for the redevelopment of areas destroyed by fires, which the government has blamed on Rohingya insurgents, is likely to raise concern about the prospects for the return of the 480,000 refugees, and compound fears of ethnic cleansing.
The United Nations refugee chief called yesterday for the plight of up to 800,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to be resolved, saying the “big question” was whether they would be allowed to return to their homeland. “It is very clear the cause of this crisis is in Myanmar but that the solution is also in Myanmar,” Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva. He also warned “the risk of spread of terrorist violence in this particular region is very very high” unless the issues are resolved.
At a meeting in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, Minister for Social Development, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye said: “According to the law, burnt land becomes government-managed land”, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
Win Myat Aye also heads a committee tasked with implementing recommendations on solving Rakhine’s tensions.
Citing a disaster management law, he said in a meeting with authorities on Tuesday that
redevelopment would “be very effective”. The law states the government oversees reconstruction in areas damaged in disasters, including conflict.
Human rights groups have said about half of more than 400 Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine state have been burned.
Refugees arriving in Bangladesh have accused the army and Buddhist vigilantes of mounting a campaign of violence and arson aimed at driving Rohingya out of Myanmar.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has rejected UN accusations of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on the security forces on August 25.
The government has reported that about half of Rohingya villages have been abandoned but it blames insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army for the fires and for attacking civilians.
Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and most are stateless.
Leader Aung San Suu Kyi in an address last week said any refugees verified as coming from Myanmar under a 1992 process agreed with Bangladesh would be allowed back.
But many refugees say they fear they lack the paperwork they expect would be demanded to prove they came from Myanmar.