Karen cyclone refugees sent back to villages

May 30, 2008 (DVB), Nearly 500 cyclone refugees from the Irrawaddy delta taking shelter in Christian missionary compounds in Rangoon’s Ahlone township have been ordered back to their villages, according to aid workers.

Most of the refugees are ethnic Karen Christians from villages around Labutta township area in the cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta.

They were brought to Rangoon by the Yangon Home Mission Karen Baptist Association and were kept in the group’s compound in Ahlone township.

An aid worker said the refugees were ordered by Rangoon divisional chief general Hla Htay Win yesterday to go back to their villages within 24 hours.

"The Rangoon divisional chief said the refugees were to go back to the Irrawaddy delta by tomorrow , he said there were refugee camps to give them shelter," said the aid worker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"But in reality, there is nowhere for them to stay."

Another missionary aid worker said a group of senior government officials led by the deputy religious affairs minister went to the compound where the refugees were staying and said they had arranged transportation to send the refugees back to their homes.

"They said the 486 refugees taking shelter in the compound would be sent back to Labutta in 15 buses the next day," said the aid worker.

"Some of the refugees have been seriously traumatised by the cyclone and they are really depressed , they should not be sent back to their villages now."

A pastor at the compound said today that the refugees had been sent back to Myaung Mya in Irrawaddy division this morning in 11 buses.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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