A delegation of Heads of Missions and senior diplomats from the embassies of the nine ASEAN member states; China, India and Bangladesh as well as the representatives from UNDP and UNHCR, visited Rakhine State from 10 to 11 September 2019. On 10 September, they met with men and women returnees of the Hindu community; and on 11 September they met with 10 members representing the Muslim families who had also returned of their own volition. The delegation was accompanied by U Khin Maung Tin, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor.
The delegation met with the 11 returnees from the Hindu community and was able to engage in a discussion in an open, free and frank atmosphere. The returnees responded to the queries raised by the members of the delegation. They recounted on the loss of lives and property and how they were forced to flee to Bangladesh due to the attacks by ARSA in August 2017 and how they were repatriated back to Rakhine with the help of a Hindu religious leader from Rakhine State and the Indian government. Following their return to Rakhine, they continued to be threatened by ARSA and therefore lived under the protection of the security personnel. They had felt safe and secure under their protection, but now wish to return to Maungdaw to lead normal lives and be able to earn their own living. They also mentioned about the NVC cards.
The government officials accompanying the delegation also told the returnees about the readiness of the purpose-built houses for their resettlement and livelihood. They were also informed that they would be able to move back to Maungdaw to pursue a normal life soon. The government is also coordinating with the international entities to create sustainable livelihood opportunities.
The delegation also met with ten members from the Muslim community who returned of their own volition and was told of the hardships and intimidation during their short stay in the camps. Because of these atrocities, threats, killings, food shortages, schooling and healthcare difficulties for their families they decided to return on their own accord and arrangements. On arrival back in Rakhine, the Myanmar immigration authorities ascertained that they were former residents and that they have no links with any terrorist groups. They also related how those remaining in the camps continue living in fear and threat from ARSA, that there have been threats via the internet and social media. And even though they want to return to their place of origin they are afraid of the threat from ARSA. And even though their relatives and friends wanted to return, they dared not, because the situation in the camps was fraught with danger including constant threats from ARSA. The NVC cards and the creation of livelihood opportunities were further discussed.
The Rakhine State Minister for Security and Border Affairs said that 6 more people out of 20,000 who have listed to return under the agreement between the two countries, arrived back at the Taung Pyo Let Wei reception centre on the morning of 11 September. Temporary relief, welfare and accommodation assistance, and arrangements for them to be resettled in their original places or nearest to it are being organized.
Deputy Minister U Khin Maung Tin thanked the members of the delegation for their participation and requested continued assistance, support and cooperation from ASEAN member states, the neighbouring countries and relevant UN agencies in the implementation of the bilateral agreement on the repatriation of displaced persons.
Myanmar is also appreciative of the assistance from Japan. Mr Ichiro Maruyama, Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar visited Maungdaw, Buthitaung in Rakhine State late last month, to find out, first hand, the situation on the ground for the returnees. The Japanese Ambassador was able to conduct a face to face interview with 12 Hindu returnees.
Following his visit, the ambassador said the embassy will identify types and nature of assistance required in order to determine the needs and also to provide advice to the Myanmar government and coordinate efforts with related UN agencies.
According to a first hand observation made by a member of the delegation, people in Maungdaw and Buthitaung were going about their daily business freely. —MNA