Myanmar gov’t vows to ensure safe return of refugees to home villages

A Myanmar soldier provides security as Muslims gather near their refugee camp in Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state in western Myanmar on Thursday, June 14, 2012. <AP/NEWSis>

SITTWAY, MYANMAR June 15 (Xinhua) —  Myanmar government has vowed to bring security back to riot-hit villages scattered in western ethnic Rakhine state to ensure the safe return of local villagers who fled the riot and sought shelter in refugee camps.

In an inspection tour to Maungtaw Thursday, which was worst hit when riot sparked on June 8, Minister of Border Affairs and Industrial Development Lieutenant-General Thein Htay encouraged refugees, and assured them that the government would help rebuilding their homes destroyed in the unrest, restore peace and stability so that they can return to their home villages safely.

He also warned rioters of the possible action against them as some are still resorting to arson even after a curfew was imposed.

UN Special Envoy Vijay Nambiar, who accompanied Thein Htay on the trip, expressed sympathy for the refugees, stressing the need for friendship and unity among the people who have been living in the region for many years.He said the United Nations would work in cooperation with Myanmar government.

Resident Representative of UN agencies in Myanmar Ashok Nigam also pledged that UN would fulfill the requirement of Rakhine state in cooperation with the government in wake of the emergency.

Official of the UNHCR Johannes Ten Feld expressed hope that the local people would stay in amity to resolve the crisis, calling for establishing a society which has more tolerance to each other.

For the past few days after a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine state on Sunday, relief measures were extensively carried out with aid in cash and kind starting to pour in.

Situation in the riot-hit Rakhine state has turned calm with movement of people starting to return to normal and reconstruction of their destroyed houses has begun as claimed by Rakhine State Security  and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Htein Lin who met the press for the first time since a state of emergency was declared in the Rakhine state along with the imposition of curfew in six town areas, namely Maungtaw, Buthidaung, Sittway, Thandwe, Kyaukphyu and Yanbye.

Some shops and banks in the downtown areas of Sittway were reopened on Thursday, while big bazaar and schools remained closed.

However, local ethnic Rakhinese victims, stranded in refugee camps, were scared of  returning to their home villages.

A total of 37 refugee camps were opened in the unrest-struck state housing some  31,884 victims so far.

Of them, 15 were set up in Sittway for 5,690 Rakhinese refugees, while two for 18,886 Muslims, totaling 24,576 refugees in the state’s capital.

Myanmar declared a state of emergency in Rakhine state on June 10 after curfew was imposed one after another on Maungtaw, Buthidaung, Sittway, Thandwe, Kyaukphyu and Yanbye, and the curfew is  effective until further noticed.

According to official figures, 29 people were killed and 38 others injured in the deadly riot from June 8 to 13.

Of the dead, 13 are Rakhinese, and 16 others are Muslims. Among the injured, 16 are Rakhinese, and the remaining 22  are Muslims.

Nine monasteries, seven Muslim mosques and one school were burned down in the violence.

Of the residential houses destroyed by fire include 1,192 of Rakhinese and 1,336 of Muslims totaling 2,528.

Myanmar government is appealing for donation of relief supplies to victims left homeless by the violent riot  which flared up in Maungtaw on last Friday.

“For the current livelihood and rehabilitation of the local people, donors and organizations, non-governmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations are requested to work together with the government  and to donate food, clothes, cash and kind to Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of their own volition,” official media reported.

So far, passenger transport including road and water between Yangon and Sittway has been temporarily suspended since Monday until the situation improves.

Some UN agencies based in Sittway including UNDP, UNHCR, UNFPA, WFP and other NGOs have withdrawn their staff in face of instability in the state.

Killing and looting were reported as unprecedented unrest and violence destroyed many residential houses, and burned down shops of local ethnic Rakhinese, especially  in Maungtaw. <Xinhua>

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