Weeks after Kofi Annan said it was “really about time” Myanmar closed its internally displaced person (IDP) camps, authorities say they are heeding his advice
Myanmar has started closing down three displacement camps in Rakhine State that have long been a source for concern, the country’s National Security Advisor U Thaung Tan announced today, according to AFP.
“We have initiated the process to close down three IDP camps,” Thaung Tun said during a briefing. “In Kyaukphyu, there are IDP camps for Rakhines … Sittwe for the Rohingya group and Ramree … mostly for Kamans.”
In their recent interim report, the Rakhine Advisory Commission, led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, advised the Myanmar government “as a first step and sign of goodwill…to facilitate the return and relocation of IDPs” in Ramree, in Kyein Ni Pyin camp in Sittwe and “approximately 65 Rakhine households from Ka Nyin Taw who are ready to move to an already identified relocation site”.
The authorities have yet to explain where they intend to move the displaced people.
Rohingya Muslims have long been persecuted in Myanmar, where much of the Buddhist majority see them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a falsehood reinforced by the passing of a controversial immigration law in 1982.
Tensions in Rakhine State, where the majority of the country’s more than one million Rohingya reside, boiled over again late last year after border police outposts were attacked at the behest of Ata Ullah, a Karachi-born ethnic Rohingya who grew up in Saudi Arabia.
Myanmar’s military – officially called the Tatmadaw – moved in and meted out a typically heavy-handed response, with human rights groups accusing soldiers of raping and murdering innocent civilians.
Despite evidence to suggest the Tatmadaw had indeed carried out mass atrocities, the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi said last week that ‘ethnic cleansing’ was ‘too strong an expression to use’ to describe what was happening.
And Thaung Tun struck a similar chord when defending the government’s actions on Monday.
“We want to dissolve the issue of statelessness. We need the cooperation of all stakeholders in order for us to go forward,” he said. “It has nothing to do with discrimination…. It has nothing to do with ethnic cleansing.”