CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 March 2018

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Rohingya face oppostion to resettlement plans

MANDALY (UCAN): Plans by Myanmar’s government to resettle Muslim Rohingya refugees in southern Maungdaw in the restive Rakhine State are meeting up with opposition from other ethnic groups from the area.
Some 80 people from civil society groups across Rakhine held a meeting in the state capital, Sittwe, on February 24 to discuss the resettlement of Rohingya returning from Bangladesh.
More than 688,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh following military operations against Rohingya militants who attacked several border posts in August 2017.
“We are very concerned for the security of local ethnic people if Rohingya refugees are resettled into the area as the two communities living together is not possible,” insisted Soe Naing, from the Rakhine Social Network. 
He explained that the government is planning to resettle Rohingya refugees at six places in southern Maungdaw that have seen outbreaks of violence since the 1940s.
He said part of the area is coastal and a wall cannot be built along the border, raising concerns about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Myanmar’s parliament recently approved a budget of about US$15 million ($117.4 million) to build a fence along the border with Rahkine’s border with Bangladesh.
Naing pressed the government “to scrutinse and verify all returnees from Bangladesh because militants are among the people, so we worry for our sovereignty.” 
Zaw Win, from Buthidaung town in northern Rakhine, said they did not want conflict to erupt again.
“We don’t oppose the government’s plan of repatriation, but the returnees must be former inhabitants of Rakhine and obey the laws and regulations of Myanmar,” he said.
Win claimed that “they (the Rohingya) have a political agenda of taking land from Rakhine.”
“We worry for the security of our ethnic people and … sovereignty,” he added.
Myanmar’s state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has been widely criticised for her failure to speak out in support of the Rohingya.
Three other Nobel peace laureates: Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, Shirin Ebadi of Iran and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, visited Rohingya camps in Bangladesh on February 25.
“It’s our appeal to our sister Aung San Suu Kyi to wake up,” the Dhaka Tribune reported Karman as saying. “Otherwise she will be one of the perpetrators of this crime. If she can’t stop all this crime, then she has to resign now.”
Human Rights Watch reported on February 23 that new satellite imagery showed the government has been bulldozing scores of depopulated Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine.
Since late 2017, the government has cleared at least 55 villages of all structures and vegetation using heavy machinery. 
 Most of these villages were among the 362 villages completely or partially destroyed by arson since August 25.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Bulldozing these areas threatens to erase both the memory and the legal claims of the Rohingya who lived there.”
Most people in Myanmar insist on referring to them as Bengalis, implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, vast numbers of Rohingya have been present in Myanmar for centuries. 

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