RVISION April 28, 2017

The United Nations’ refugee agency has criticized a Myanmar government plan to resettle Rohingya Muslims displaced by recent violence in “camp-like” villages, saying it risks stoking tensions, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The plan – confirmed by a senior state-level official – has sparked fear among residents that they would end up penned into de facto refugee camps, the document produced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Myanmar said.

Attacks on border guard posts in northwestern Myanmar in October last year by a Rohingya insurgent group ignited the biggest crisis of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s year in power. Security forces stand accused of mass killings and gang rapes during the counterinsurgency operation that followed.

About 75,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh to escape the violence, during which at least 1,500 houses across several villages were burned, while thousands more hid in forests and fields.

Some of those who fled have now returned and built temporary shelters, but the authorities have barred them from rebuilding their homes permanently citing “security restrictions”, according to residents who spoke to Reuters and the UN document.

Instead, authorities have devised a plan to relocate some 1,152 households from 13 scattered hamlets into larger, more manageable “model villages”.

In a three-page “advocacy note” dated April 25 and circulated among humanitarian agencies on Wednesday, the UNHCR warned the plan could “create further tensions” in villages recently scarred by the violence.

“Based on the information available on the model villages and concerns brought to our attention by affected villagers, UNHCR stressed the importance to allow displaced communities to return to their place of origin and have access to their previous source of livelihoods,” UNHCR Myanmar spokesman Andrew Dusek said by email when reached for comment on the document.

More than 1 million Rohingya live in apartheid-like conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where many in the Buddhist majority consider them interlopers from Bangladesh.

While Dusek said the UNHCR understood the plan was still at draft stage and may not have been finalised, Rakhine State government secretary Tin Maung Swe said the local administration had already started implementing it.

Read more on: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-resettlement-idUSKBN17T2BJ