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The Arakan State regional parliament on Wednesday approved a proposal to construct new villages in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships for Arakanese residents.
The plan comes despite the fact that those townships are traditionally Rohingya Muslim strongholds and the simmering tensions in the region.
In the regional parliamentary session on 19 November, Pauktaw Township MP Thet Tun Aung of the Rakhine National Party (RNP) presented a formal proposal to build new “ethnic villages” in the two townships on the basis that “there is not much native population living in these areas”.
A parliamentary discussion followed: the motion was supported by four other MPs and state Security Affairs Minister Tin Lin, according to RNP lawmaker Aung Myat Kyaw.
“The regional Security Minister U Tin Lin supported the proposal and pledged to conduct field assessments to work out the necessary arrangements for implementation. The regional parliament then approved the proposal,” said Aung Myat Kyaw.
The parliamentary discussion did not specify how many new villages will be built. The population in Buthidaung and Maungdaw is around 90 percent Rohingya with the remaining 10 percent comprising various ethnic populations, including Arakanese or Rakhine Buddhists.
The previous ruling military junta tried to initiate similar schemes for new settlements in Buthidaung and Maungdaw in 1995, but these did not come to fruition.
When asked by DVB if they were confident the plan could be successfully implemented this time round, Aung Myat Kyaw said the state government “will have to persuade the Arakanese people to settle in the new villages by creating job opportunities and providing healthcare, security and education.”
He added: “It will depend mostly on the government, but it can be successful if they can lay out a master plan for implementation.”