Myanmar refutes report that UN will withdraw aid in Rakhine

Myanmar refutes report that UN will withdraw aid in Rakhine

Rohingya
About 730,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August 2017 following a brutal military crackdown that UN officials described as "ethnic cleansing". (AFP/Ed JONES)

YANGON: Myanmar has refuted a report by the Guardian which said that the United Nations in Myanmar will withdraw support in Rakhine State over the government's "policy of apartheid" for Rohingya Muslims.

The report cites a letter sent from UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Knut Ostby to the Myanmar government. It reportedly said the UN and its humanitarian partners will withhold support “beyond life-saving assistance” in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps deemed “closed” by the government, unless fundamental changes occur.

When contacted, Myanmar's Union Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye told CNA on Monday (Jun 17) that his ministry did receive a letter from Mr Ostby, dated Jun 6, but that there was no mention of a withdrawal of UN aid. 

"The letter did not contain anything about the withdrawal of the UN aid," said Dr Win Myat Aye.

What was mentioned, he said, was the UN's appreciation over the progress of Myanmar's national strategy on the closure of IDP camps and that international parties could contribute to that.

According to Dr Win Myat Aye, the UN had also asked that the government suspend closing IDP camps until the camp closure strategy is finalised, and requested a meeting on the matter.

"UN agencies in Myanmar and our ministry are working together for the better lives of all the displaced persons in Myanmar. We are in contact with Mr Knut Ostby’s office for the meeting to discuss on the camp closure issues and the finalization of the draft strategy," he added.

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Having a national strategy to close IDP camps - temporary shelters that house people forced out of their homes by violence in Rakhine and elsewhere - is key because this would ensure that the closure complies with international standards. 

In 2016, shortly after State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi took office, Myanmar approached former UN Secretary-General, the late Kofi Annan, to lead a commission to analyse the Rakhine situation and help the country deal with the crisis.

In August 2018, the government closed its first IDP camp in Nindin Village, Rakhine State, rolling out one of the 88 recommendations made in the Kofi Annan report which called for people to be rehoused in a voluntary and safe manner, preferably near their original villages and with adequate access to basic services and livelihood. 

READ: Myanmar's Rakhine a human rights crisis: Kofi Annan

Myanmar has held several workshops to discuss such a strategy. 

"The IDP camp closure strategy is in the final stage, and the strategy will be followed by action plans," Dr Win Myat Aye said. 

"In developing action plans, all stakeholders will be invited to engage in the planning and implementation processes."

READ: Thai captain of shipwrecked Rohingya boat charged with smuggling

A UN spokesperson confirmed that a letter was sent to Myanmar authorities, but declined to give details.

In a tweet on Monday, Mr Ostby said: "I wish to reiterate UN's commitment to implementing durable solutions for the IDPs in central Rakhine in cooperation with the Government of Myanmar and in accordance with international principles."

Source: CNA/na(gs)

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