Forgotten Arakanese go thirsty

Life in Arakan state’s Maungdaw is hard on ethnic Arakanese refugees coming from Bangladesh.

The people living here, resettled under a programme by the ministry of border affairs, have to face lack of both water and ways to make a living.

Locals say they have to travel far through areas with sectarian tension to reach a lake where they can fetch water.

“It is sun-drenched here and we have a shortage of water”, said Tun Khine, a refugee living in Thayaykonbaung village. “We have to go fetch water somewhere far away and always keep someone on watch, as the situation here is not very good. We are certainly in hardship”.

In 2005, sixteen Arakanese families who crossed the border from Bangladesh were resettled in Maungdaw’s Taungpyo Letwe sub-township, where the new village Thayaykonbaung was set up. But today most of the houses are deteriorating and the refugees are neglected.

“The families reached out to us suggesting they wanted to move back into Maungdaw town”, said Tun Tun Win, member of local civil society group General Social Assistance Association. “The Rakhine (Arakan) Races Development Association have so far raised about 169,000 kyat ($169US) and we are working to provide them two trucks for transportation. Our local member Tin Maung Kyaw is now collecting donations and we will try to help them”.

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Though the township installed a water supply system including wells and water pumps at the same time as building the village, there hasn’t been any fuel to run them.

“The municipality did connect water pipelines to our houses, but we are yet to drink a drop of water since the completion of the water system”, said Tin Maung who lives in Thayaykonbaung village. For the moment, we are relying on the lake”.

Today, some refugee villages in Maungdaw are provided water one day a week, while others are not provided any at all.

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