Sunday, December 10, 2023
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Living in Limbo

Six months after anti-Muslim violence raged through the central Burmese town of Meikhtila, some 3,000 residents remain in makeshift camps.

The government wants to relocate the residents to new apartment buildings away from their original homes.

Grandmother Daw Ni Ni remains in a displacement camp on the edge of town and is unsure of when or where she will be moved.

Daw Ni Ni has been living in the shelter for six months and shares a tiny room with her daughter and two grandchildren.

When her house was torched during the anti-Muslim violence in March, the land ownership documents for her property were destroyed.

The authorities have said they will give her new papers so she can rebuild her house but no one has told her when.

“They said our land documents would be issued so we went to check, but they couldn’t tell us anything,” said Daw Ni Ni.

Daw Ni Ni’s husband was one of the 43 people who were killed during the riots.

More than 10,000 people, mostly Muslims, were driven from their homes, as Buddhist mobs torched whole neighbourhoods, destroying shops, homes and mosques.


Daw Ni Ni said she is tired of waiting for government help and just wants to go home.

“Whether the government wishes to assist us or not, it’s time for us to stand on our own feet,” she said.

Many of the displaced Muslim residents of Meikhtila have suffered severe trauma and this has prompted some doctors to call for a counseling service to be put in place in the camps.

“Clinics should be set up with psychiatrists and counselors appointed to counsel [the IDPs] individually as well as in groups to heal their mental wounds,” said Dr Myint Oo, secretary of the Committee for Medical Ethics at the General Practitioners’ Society.

He went on to say that those in charge of displacement camps have a responsibility to ease the fears and anxieties of the IDPs and to avoid making the camps feel like prisons. To do this, he suggests allowing religious leaders to make visits.

“We must allow all religious leaders to have communication with the IDPs and ensure they are not left isolated,” said Dr Myint Oo.

“The most important things are to avoid detestable speech and to treat everyone equally,” he said.

In the meantime, those remaining in the camps outside Meikhtila face continued uncertainty.

Many of them say they feel as though they have been forgotten.




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