The Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), headed by Deputy Minister of Border Affairs Maj-Gen Maung Maung Ohn, on Thursday paid a visit to a displacement camp in Myebon Township near Sittwe, accompanied by UN and INGO representatives.
Arakan State government spokesperson Hla Thein said the officials went to inspect conditions in the camp as a fact-finding mission ahead of the resumption of humanitarian aid to the various camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Arakan State where some 140,000 people, mainly Muslims, remain displaced. The Myebon camp houses some 3,000 IDPs, almost exclusively Kaman Muslims whose homes were destroyed during anti-Muslim riots last October.
“The ECC, led by the Union Minister [Maung Maung Ohn], are inspecting the Myebon displacement camp along with UN and INGO representatives with a view of resuming aid work,” Hla Thein told DVB by telephone on Thursday.
Aung Lwin, an ethnic Kaman who is the coordinator at the Myebon camp, said the IDPs explained to the delegation about the hardships they suffer every day in the camp, as well as a lack of food, education and jobs.
“We are not allowed to leave the camp,” he told DVB. “We are confined to this 15-acre site with no employment and no income, and we suffer considerable food shortages.”
He added that the camp chairman requested to the delegation that the Kaman IDPs be allowed to go fishing in the area. “And for the children,” said Aung Lwin. “The so-called school is little more than a cow shed.”
He said the border affairs minister promised to attend to their problems; however, the camp residents were saddened by Maung Maung Ohn’s remarks implying that the Kaman are “visitors” in Arakan State, hence they should behave like visitors and not upset their hosts, meaning Arakanese Buddhists, the camp coordinator told DVB on Thursday.
“He called us ‘visitors’ – we have been living on this land for generations. We did not just migrate here recently. We were really hurt by what he said,” said Aung Lwin.
The delegation toured the Myebon camp for about 30 minutes before continuing to camps in Pauktaw Township, which also shelter many Kaman IDPs.
The recently appointed ECC is comprised of central and regional government officials, as well as local Buddhist community leaders. It was formed as a mechanism to coordinate with the UN and INGOs as to whether to resume aid to the camps and under what conditions.
On 14 May, Than Tun, a local Arakanese Buddhist community leader and member of the ECC, said that he was against further assistance to bolster the capacity of the existing hospital in the Dar Paing camp near Sittwe, which shelters Rohingya IDPs.
“We see that the IDP camps are only here temporarily, and so their hospital should also be temporary and it doesn’t need to be permanent,” he said. “We are worried that giving the [IDPs] a permanent hospital will imply that they have a permanent status to stay here.”