Labutta cyclone refugees sent back to villages

Jul 29, 2008 (DVB), Local authorities in Labutta township in Irrawaddy division have in the past week started sending cyclone refugees from temporary camps in the township back to their villages, Labutta residents said.

One local resident said the authorities were now trying to convince the refugees to leave the camps of their own accord rather than forcing them out.

"Some of the refugees did not want to go back to their villages where all their homes were destroyed but they had no choice," said the resident.

"Before, the authorities gave them a deadline to move out of the camps by 26 July at the latest and said that the government would not take responsibility for them if they chose to continue to stay in the camps," he said.

"But now they have changed their tone in asking refugees to move out , they now say it’s up to the refugees whether or not they leave the camps but that there will be not much opportunity for them to get lands from the government if they don’t go."

The resident said the authorities had also offered to provide money for the refugees to buy food.

Another Labutta resident said on 24 July that the refugees had been seen being transported out of the camps in four or five military trucks.

About 7000-10,000 cyclone victims were given shelter in three refugee camps in Labutta under the United Nations’ relief program.

UN information officer U Aye Win in Rangoon said two weeks ago that the UN did not have much information on relocation of refugees, but said it was still the responsibility of the UN, various aid groups and the government to keep providing food and shelter to cyclone victims regardless of their locations.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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