CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Rakhine’s displaced Hindus to be reptriated

MANDALAY (UCAN): The government of Myanmar will start the repatriation of Hindu refugees to Rakhine on January 22.
 
At least 3,000 of an estimated 8,000 Hindus living in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe were internally displaced, while others crossed over to neighbouring Bangladesh when Muslim Rohingya fled the clearance operations of the Myanmar military.
 
More than 650,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape the brutal military crackdown in Rakhine in response to Muslim militant attacks on security posts on 25 August 2017.
 
Aung Min, director of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, said two reception centres for accepting refugees are almost finished and, as a first step, more than 450 Hindu refugees will be repatriated.
 
Returning refugees need to apply for the government-run National Verification Card as proof of residence in Myanmar and prior to getting citizenship under a 1982 citizenship law, according to Aung Min.
 
 “The process and procedures apply to all refugees whether they are Hindu or Bengali (Rohingya), but we will begin Hindu refugee repatriation as their numbers are just hundreds and can be processed quickly,” Aung Min said.
 
The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said the repatriation plan should be shelved as it was based on an “impossible timetable” for safe and voluntary returns.
 
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank believes prospects are dim for the return of any significant number of Rohingya refugees in the short to medium term.
 
Ni Maw, a Hindu community leader in Maungdaw confirmed the planned repatriations.
 
Surendra Jain, international joint general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, said Myanmar has been “always ready to take back Rohingya Hindus because the whole world agrees that Hindus are the best minorities,” adding, “The Islamic world has to now think whether the thing called jihad will work or not.” 
 
Kyaw Min, chairperson of the Democracy and Human Rights Party, a Yangon-based Rohingya party, said the repatriation plan will not work and called it a public relations stunt.
 
“The decades-long policy of discrimination against Rohingya Muslims still remains in Rakhine State, I don’t think many people will come back to Rakhine,” he said.
 
Sultan, a Rohingya resident from Maungdaw, said he had heard some people were still fleeing to Bangladesh and that around 1,500 Rohingya fled from Rakhine in December.
 
“All refugees are willing to return to Rakhine if they get their citizenship rights, which is the main barrier for them to return home,” Sultan said. 
 
Hindus make up only 0.5 percent of the population of Myanmar, while 89 per cent are Buddhists and 4.3 per cent are Muslims, according to the 2014 census. 
 
Meanwhile, moves are afoot by the Myanmese government to close the Thetkaepyin camp near Sittwe.
 
The minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Win Myat Aye, as quoted in the Global New Light of Myanmar on January 3 as saying Rakhine’s camps for internally displaced people were “set up in 2012 (and) were meant to be temporary camps but have been in existence for more than five years now.”
 
The camp has taken in more than 6,000 people from 1,000 households since last August.
 
Kyaw Hla Aung, a resident at the camp, criticised of the plan, saying, “Why don’t we, Rohingya, get a right to return to our homes? We feel that we are discriminated against as the government plans to resettle us in new places by segregation from Rakhine communities.” 
 
Reports also emerged on January 7 of an alleged attack by the ragtag Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on Myanmese forces.
 
This raised concerns that the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh would be negatively impacted.
 
“We don’t know whether Rohingya militants were behind it or if it was stage-managed by the military, but it is bad news as it does not help in implementing any good agenda for Rohingya,” Abul Hashem, a former schoolteacher, said from a camp in Cox’s Bazar.

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