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Reintegration needs many years, Rakhine chief minister says

Reintegration needs many years, Rakhine chief minister says
May 03
13:16 2016

Arakan State’s chief minister says it will take more than one five-year term under the NLD-led government to bring the state’s divided Buddhist and Muslim communities together again.

“It is impossible to unite them at once. We will have to do it step by step,” U Nyi Pu told The Myanmar Times in an interview in Sittwe.

“So we need to give the process a lot of time. Therefore we cannot say it can be accomplished in our five-year term,” he said.

Although his comments appeared to represent a desire by his administration to end policies of enforced segregation, they reflect a reluctance to move quickly because of pressures the National League for Democracy is facing in Arakan (Rakhine) State where the party is leading a minority government. More widely across Myanmar, nationalists – including prominent Buddhist monks – have also shown they do not intend to give up their anti-Muslim platforms used for attacks on the NLD.

There is also the issue of how much latitude U Nyi Pu has been given by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in setting policies as critical as reintegration. The state counsellor has said little in public on the issue.

Asked to respond to criticism that he is a “weak” chief minister and that he must work according to decisions made by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he replied that the Union government had set out nationwide policies on such issues as bribery, but that the state government would decide other cases in its “everyday activities”.

Violence between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority tore Arakan (Rakhine) apart in 2012. More than 100,000 civilians – mostly Rohingya who are denied citizenship in their own home land remain in camps and face discrimination in healthcare, education and freedom of movement.

U Nyi Pu said the government’s main drive was to develop the state. With significant development, “conflicts and problems in the region will fade away automatically”, he said.

More immediately he said efforts were being made, with international help, to improve structures and security in IDP camps ahead of the monsoon season. Having first visited camps for Arakan (Rakhine) displaced by recent fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, he said he would visit Muslim refugees “according to the decision of the regional government”.

Asked about restrictions on Rohingya accessing hospitals, the chief minister said they were allowed to leave the camps for healthcare with a letter from a doctor.

“There is no limitation for them if they need healthcare,” he said.

In practice, however, many Muslims are severely restricted in their access to care.

John Ging, a senior United Nations humanitarian official, issued a statement on March 1 after his visit to Rakhine in which he called for an end to “such discriminatory practices”. He highlighted the case of a Rohingya mother whose weeks-old baby had died from lack of oxygen last December because she had been denied access to a nearby township hospital.

Asked about the denial of university education in the state capital, the chief minister said they could take distance education courses and that discussions were being held on their attendance of other universities “even if they cannot attend Sittwe University”.

Speaking of more than 1000 Rakhine villagers who fled fighting since mid-April between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Tatmadaw, the chief minister said he wanted to resolve the issue and get them back home as soon as possible. Political rivals would try to use this crisis against the NLD government, he said.

He said he hoped to meet the state military commander soon to discuss the conflict and to convey the people’s anti-war protests.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on April 28 after visiting sites in the region that about 1100 people had been displaced in the townships of Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Kyauktaw and were staying mostly in schools.

“The UN and partners are liaising closely with the government on meeting outstanding humanitarian needs,” OCHA said.

Source: Myanmar Times



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