Three refugee camps have been closed in Myanmar's western Rakhine state as recommended by an advisory commission, government said yesterday. The commission led by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan recommended Myanmar government in April to develop a comprehensive strategy towards closing all IDP (internally-displaced persons) camps in Rakhine State, and immediate closure of three camps as a first step.
Three camps for IDPs have been closed down in the Kyaukphyu, Pauktaw and Ramree townships, Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor to Myanmar government, said in a statement published on state-run newspapers.
The largest and the latest to be closed among three camps sheltered 215 households of Rohingya Muslims in Phauktaw, near state capital Sittwe.
"Most of them were relocated to the nearest Min That Phar village while some move to other villages where they have relatives," Rakhine regional government spokesperson, Min Aung told Anadolu Agency by phone on Sunday. He added that authorities provided the returnees with individual houses and cash assistance to resume their work.
The first -- a camp in Ramree that housed 55 Kaman Muslim families -- was shut in April. Most were relocated to Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, rather than returned to their homes in Ramree. The second camp which sheltered 65 ethnic Rakhine Buddhist households was closed in May.
Since mid-2012, the region has seen a series of incidents of communal violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya, which have left around 100 people dead and some 120,000 displaced in camps – mostly members of the Rohingya minority.
Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its persecution of the country's Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine state. Fresh violence erupted in Rakhine last October after nine border police were killed. A United Nations report issued earlier this year said Myanmar's security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingyas during their campaign against the insurgents, which could amount to crimes against humanity.
Rohingyas face fundamental rights abuses. Myanmar's nationality law, approved in 1982, denies Rohingya citizenship. According to the law, foreigners cannot become naturalized citizens of Myanmar unless they can prove a close familial connection to the country.
Rohingyas are not recognized among the 134 official ethnicities in Myanmar because authorities see them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. They are subjected to forced labor, have no land rights and are heavily restricted by the government. They have no permission to leave the camps built for them, have no source of income and have to rely on the World Food Program to survive.
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