Aung San Suu Kyi’s development plans for Rakhine to start

Government initiative includes assistance, repatriation and resettlement of refugees. Infrastructural development, including roads and bridges, will be made possible by donations made by 22 businessmen. Reception centres for Rohingya will be set up along the border. Members of other ethnic groups are also returning home. Some camps for internally displaced people are being closed.

Sittwe (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Myanmar government announced plans this week to develop Rakhine State’s infrastructures, including roads and bridges, as well as organise the resettlement of returning Rohingya refugees. In the state itself, things appear to be gradually returning to normal. 

Myanmar authorities plan to implement the recommendations made by the Advisory Committee on Rakhine State chaired by Kofi Annan through the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD), an initiative undertaken by Myanmar’s democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

UEHRD Chief Coordinator Dr Aung Tun Thet announced that infrastructure building will start this week in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

The two districts, he said, “are underdeveloped areas so we will focus on these areas. The monsoon season will start in April so we have little time to complete this work. We have only six months for the project”.

Construction companies will build infrastructure including roads and bridges and the cost of the projects will be borne by donations to the UEHRD fund. Some companies reportedly will not charge the fund for their work.

Initially they will build reception centre offices on the border with Bangladesh for Rohingya returning to Myanmar after their residency status is vetted.

“We must start the construction of reception buildings for receiving those who will come back from Bangladesh as the number one priority,” said Construction and Infrastructure Task Force (CITF) patron and business tycoon Zaygabar Khin Shwe. “We shall repair these buildings first and other damaged buildings. Secondly we will go to the construction sector to provide electricity and running water.”

Plans, he noted, include building a road connecting the city of Sittwe to the Bangladesh border and a major overhaul for the city’s old airstrip.

UEHRD was set up on 15 October with 16.7 billion kyats (US$ 12.3 million) in donations from 22 businessmen.

Aung San Suu Kyi has given the latter three main tasks to fulfil: repatriation and aid for those who fled to Bangladesh; resettlement and rehabilitation of returnees regardless of their race and religion; and the promotion of peace and development in the region.

For their part, Rakhine authorities have announced their decision to close camps for internally displaced people (IDP) starting next Thursday.

According to U Aung Kyaw Zan, Rakhine State Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation, camps in Sittwe, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Minbya townships will be closed because many IDPs have left for home.

Since fighting broke out between the mostly Muslim Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the Myanmar military, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and more than 25,000 people from other local ethnic groups have poured into Sittwe and surrounding areas.

The latter include ethnic Arakanese, Mro, Daingnet and Hindus. At present only five camps are still open, two for Arakanese, one for the Maramagyi, and two for Hindus.