Cyclone refugees threatened with relocation

Jun 6, 2008 (DVB), Local authorities in Rangoon division’s Shwe Paukkan township are forcing cyclone victims out of makeshift refugee camps in town and threatening them with relocation to Arakan state if they refuse to leave.

A refugee living in one of the camps in the township said they had been told they would be sent to Butheetaung-Maung Taw township if they did not return to their villages.

"We've been at this camp since the day after the cyclone hit our homes. So far we have received no assistance from the government and now the local authorities are forcing us to go back to our homes," the refugee said.

"They said those who refused to leave the camp would be relocated to Butheetaung-Maung Taw township in Arakan state with an allowance of 100,000 kyat," he said.

"We don’t want to go and live there but we have no homes left to go to."

An aid volunteer who has been working in Shwe Paukkan said it would be impossible for the cyclone victims to return to their homes.

"These refugees have no money to rebuild their homes and the places where their houses used to be are now surrounded by water," the aid worker said.

"Now they are getting kicked out of the refugee camps, but they have nowhere to go," he said.

"The government has provided no assistance for them , they have had to rely on aid from private donors."

The United Nations has said that forced returns of cyclone refugees are unacceptable, but authorities are continuing to send victims back to their villages.

Reporting by Htet Yazar

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