Meikhtila locals remain in shelters amid security concerns

Meikhtila locals remain in shelters amid security concerns

Residents who were forced to flee from their homes during anti-Muslim rioting last month in Mandalay division’s Meikhtila are disappointed that they are still unable to return home due to ‘security concerns’ and attempted arson attacks.

According to a local member of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88 GPOS) group, there were at least eight arson attempts as of 17 April by unknown assailants after the rioting was quelled in late March.

“On the [Buddhist New Year Day] a man was found with four barrels of petrol, dried coconut fronds and some oil dregs – he was chased down by local officials but escaped,” said Thiha, a Meikhtila member of 88 GPOS, who added that a house was burnt down during an arson attack in nearby Thabyay village a day earlier.

Still, many of the town’s residents who are still holed up in temporary camps wish to return home.

Khin Nan, who is being sheltered at a local high school, said his family is ready to return to their neighbourhood.

“It’s my home – we are also Burmese citizens – [Mandalay division’s chief minister Ye Myint] said when he was here that we are all citizens here and will get to go home but just to wait for a while until the situation is stable,” said Khin Nan.

“We all want to go home but are unable to do so due to ‘security concerns’.”

According to Khin Nan, displaced residents have access to sufficient food and health care at the temporary camps.

Meikhtila township parliamentary representative from the Lower House Win Htein said government authorities are still facing difficulties due to the continued threat of arson.

“There are still arson attempts and security threats – about a couple incidents every week so there is a lot to consider for the authorities with regards to sending the refugees home,” said Win Htein.

“We are also helping them brainstorm – it will happen eventually – but for now we are at our wits end.”

According to the parliamentarian, the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry are currently devising a programme to build new homes for residents whose houses were destroyed in the riots.

During the riots that broke out in Meikhtila on 20 March and later spread through the country’s central heartlands, 43 people were killed and more than 12,000 were displaced.

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