USDP cries foul over resettled Kaman in Yangon

The resettlement in Yangon of Kaman from Rakhine State has the USDP worrying about an influx of ‘legal and illegal immigrants’ in the commercial capital.


NAY PYI TAW — A government decision to resettle 55 Kaman families from Rakhine State in Yangon has unsettled two Union Solidarity and Development Party MPs who have successfully pushed for the move to be discussed in the Pyithu Hluttaw.

The proposal to review the decision was submitted on March 5 by U Maung Myint (USDP, Mingin, Sagaing), supported by Dr Maung Thinn (USDP, Meiktila, Mandalay), and will be debated on a date to be decided.

Maung Myint said outside the chamber he had sought the review because he believed the government was ignoring recommendations in the final report of the Advisory Commission of Rakhine State headed by former United Nations secretary-general, Mr Kofi Annan.

“They move whom they want to move to Yangon; I don’t like it,” Maung Myint said in response to a question from Frontier.

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The predominantly Muslim Kaman are classified as one of seven Rakhine sub-groups on the list of 135 officially recognised ethnic nationalities. Figures from the 2014 census suggest there are about 28,000 Kaman in Rakhine, out of about 45,000 nation-wide.

Maung Myint, who had several ministerial positions in the previous USDP government, had earlier told the Hluttaw that it was wrong for the government to claim that moving Kaman to Yangon was in line with the commission’s recommendations.

The claim was made in a news release issued by the Office of the State Counsellor on July 2 last year, he said, adding that the Annan commission report had recommended that those displaced by violence in Rakhine should be returned to their places of origin.

Maung Myint said he did not understand why people were being moved to Yangon when there was ample space to resettle them in Rakhine.

Recommendation 25 in the Annan commission report says the government should try to ensure that internally displaced residents return to their places of origin “as a matter of priority” and that IDPs should “participate actively in planning and managing their return, relocation, or local integration”.

“So I told them to review; something is wrong,” Maung Myint told Frontier.

He said the 55 Kaman families resettled in Yangon last year had been living in IDP camps established in Rakhine after communal violence erupted in 2012, claiming scores of lives and leaving thousands homeless.

Asked how resettling Kaman from Rakhine in the commercial capital could lead to problems, Maung Myint said, “If they begin to do like this, before long Yangon will be full of legal and illegal immigrants”.

The Kaman resettled in Yangon include U Tin Hlaing Win, secretary of the Kaman National Party, who is a leader of the IDP camp resettlement plan and lived in Ramree town until he was moved into an IDP camp in 2012.

Tin Hlaing Win told Frontier the reasons they decided to move to Yangon included not being allowed to return to their homes, losing their livelihoods, and being the target of constant abuse and threats.

“We have been living in refugee camps for five years. We don’t feel secure here. There is no hope of going back home. We feel downhearted. So we decided to move to Yangon,” he said.

Tin Hlaing Win said 300 Kaman had moved to Yangon and nearly half were former government employees. Kaman who had lost their national registration cards were issued with new NRCs to facilitate the move.

Tin Hlaing Win said five Kaman families had decided to remain at Ramree town.

The families who had moved to Yangon had been assisted by relatives in the Kaman community, said Tin Hlaing Win, who declined to comment on the move by the USDP MPs.

U Soe Aung, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said he did not wish to comment until after the debate in the Pyithu Hluttaw, at which he may be questioned by MPs.

An Arakan National Party MP in the Pyithu Hluttaw, who asked not to be named, was more outspoken.

“It seems as if the USDP wants to confine all the refugees in Rakhine State, but we cannot accept the idea and will speak out in the Hluttaw,” he said.

National League of Democracy MPs declined to comment.

A shout echoed in the Pyithu Hluttaw chamber when speaker U Win Myint asked if it was agreed to debate the proposal and he warned MPs to observe parliamentary decorum. The shout was said to have come from within the bloc of appointed Tatmadaw MPs but this could not be confirmed.

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