Forced returns raise tensions in Irrawaddy

May 27, 2008 (DVB), Tensions have been raised between cyclone refugees and government authorities in Irrawaddy divisions, as officials have continued to force storm victims back to their villages.

In Bogalay, where women from the central National League for Democracy went on Sunday to give help, only one tenth of the cyclone victims who came seeking refuge remain, the rest having been forcibly relocated to other areas.

Ko Aye Lwin, a villager from Poppa village in Kunchangone township, was reportedly beaten by police with iron bars when he and a friend went to receive aid.

According to refugees in the area, officials called Aye Lwin lazy and chastised him for begging and not working before beating him and leaving him bleeding and with head injuries.

In Bassein, there was a clash between cyclone refugees and police at 9am yesterday outside the general hospital when the authorities tried to return the storm victims to their villages, according to a local resident.

"When the people refused to go home and stayed standing outside the hospital, the police said they would shoot," the resident said.

"The refugees responded that it was all the same to them if they lived or died, and said that they were being fed by the public and the international community," he said.

"When the chief police came, they said to him the same thing: 'You are not feeding us. The public and the world are feeding us'."

John Holmes, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, said in a recent press conference on the situation in Burma that any forced returns of refugees are "unacceptable".

Reporting by Aye Nai

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