Rakhine government stops IDP camp construction led by state MPs

The Rakhine State government on April 29 blocked construction of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp being built under the leadership of two state MPs.

In a letter addressed to the chairman of the Sittwe District Management Committee, state security and border affairs minister Colonel Min Than said construction of the camp had not been approved before building began.

The camp was being built near the edge of the town of Rathedaung under the leadership of Khin Saw Wai, lower house MP for Rathedaung, and state MP Than Naing, Khin Saw Wai told Myanmar Now.

Fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine has been ongoing since November 2018, with much of the fighting concentrated in Rathedaung township. Villages along the nearby Mayu River have been most affected, with villagers largely fleeing into the town proper.

The camp was being built with public donations to house people currently sheltering in local monasteries, Khin Saw Wai said.

She said she was surprised by the state’s action.

“It’s very sad to see a project meant to help people in such a difficult situation stopped,” she told Myanmar Now.

Min Than could not be reached for comment.

A Rathedaung resident who volunteers with the camps and asked for anonymity said there is a military battalion near the blocked camp site, and that the security of both the IDPs and the soldiers could have been a factor in the state’s decision.

The Tatmadaw’s 538th battalion is stationed on the Taung Hla Maw mountain and the camp was being built at its base, the resident said.

Khin Saw Wai said that the camp has not yet been removed and that camp leaders are discussing how to proceed.

There are currently about 30,000 IDPs in all of Rathedaung township, with about 20,000 of them living in 15 camps within the town of Rathedaung itself, according to local aid groups.

Almost all IDP camps in the town are built within monastery compounds by the monasteries and local leaders with public donations, consisting largely of clusters of tarpaulin tents, aid groups say.

According to state government data, there are seven state-run camps operating in six townships throughout the state.

According to a March-31 report from the Rakhine Ethnics Congress – a local civil society organisation – there are currently 157,291 IDPs living in 10 separate townships throughout the state.

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