IDPs


Several dozen residents in the town of Mongyang, including government workers, have fled south to Kengtung, the administrative capital of eastern Shan State, fearing the outbreak of fighting as tensions flare between the Burma Army and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

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Hundreds of Rohingya villagers are facing a second night hiding in rice fields without shelter, after the army on Sunday forcibly removed them from a village in a crackdown following attacks on border security forces.

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Dozens of residents fleeing violence in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township began returning home with the help of government agencies on Monday after sheltering in Danyawaddy sports ground in the state capital of Sittwe.

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Over 1,000 Karen refugees who fled from Mae Tha Wor in Karen State to Karen villages close to the border with Thailand after fighting in September face difficulties with food supplies, accommodation and travel.

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The Karen State government has been making arrangements for the return of over 90 Burmese refugees from refugee camps in Thailand back to Burma.

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An international rights group has urged the government of Myanmar to lift restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid to western Rakhine and northern Kachin states.

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Terrified residents fled north-western Myanmar on Friday, thousands evacuating on foot and others airlifted out by helicopter, as troops hunted through torched villages for those behind attacks on police that have raised fears Rakhine state could again be torn apart.

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In Mandalay Division’s Meikhtila, Muslims who lost their houses in racially motivated violence in 2013 attempted in vain to return to their wards on Saturday after authorities ordered them to leave internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps.

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Families displaced from their homes by conflict have returned – only to find themselves being sued for trespassing on their own land, they say.

The IDPs in Tanintharyi Region thought their problems were finally over when the ceasefire between the military and ethnic armed groups was finally inked in October last year, allowing them to return to their ancestral homes.

But instead they have discovered their problems may just be beginning, they told a press conference in Yangon last week.

Four villagers from Kyayzuetaw village, Yephyu township, have been slapped with lawsuits by Shwe Padonmar Production Enterprise, and two villagers from Band Mae village, Myeik district, are being sued by the Asia World company amid accusations that some villagers destroyed palm oil trees.

“The villagers left in the 1990s because of the fighting [between the Karen National Union and the Tatmadaw]. Now, 20 years on, the regional minister for Karen affairs has told them they can return. But in the meantime, these companies were granted permission by the government to set up palm oil plantation projects in their villages,” said Naw Pe Tha Law of the Tanintharyi Friends civil society group.

She said the Central Committee for Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land should have conducted checks on the ground instead of just relying on reports from the companies on how many acres they had cultivated.

Sa Ayeyar Win, a lawyer with the Myeik Lawyers’ Network, said the companies had the right to sue the villagers because they were in possession of land ownership certificates. The villagers, though they had worked the fields for years, had no documentation to support their claims of ownership.

“Land confiscation problems are the biggest challenge for the new government in Tanintharyi Region,” he said.

Saw Myo Min, 38, of Kyayzuetaw village, who is being sued for criminal trespass by Shwe Padonmar, said it was very hard to mount a defence.

“I have no money. We’re just casual workers who get paid by the day, if we work. We don’t even have a motorbike to get to court. We just came back when the fighting was finished. Now we’re facing a lawsuit,” he said.

Tanintharyi regional government discussed the future of land confiscated by the military government in the middle of August. They considered loaning land to private companies for agriculture projects, and agreed it should be taken back if it was not being used.

The state has the right to take back farmland if it has not been cultivated for four years after an initial land-lease agreement contract is signed, under the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law of 2012.

The chief minister of Tanintharyi Region announced that the regional government had been surveying unused land and had submitted its findings to the central government. The purpose of the survey was to give the land back to its original owners, or to migrant workers who wanted to return home, to allow them to cultivate small-scale farms.

U Hlwan Moe, director of the Agricultural Land Management and Statistics Department, said several complaints had been received from various states and regions.

“Mistakes were made because the department didn’t know the basic rules and regulations of land management. And there was a lot of bias and corruption in land management for years,” he said.

The local government can seize a plot of less than 50 acres (20 hectares), but the disposition of larger plots depends on the decision of the recently formed Union-level Central Committee for the Management of Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands.

Some larger plots in Tanintharyi Region were confiscated by the military government, which ordered private companies to meet agricultural production goals in the 1990s and 2000s.

In 1999, for example, the government launched palm oil projects in Tanintharyi Region, giving permission over several years to 44 companies to develop a total of almost 1 million acres (405,000ha) in Tanintharyi, according to a recent report by Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

The villagers are calling for the lawsuits to be withdrawn, and for the authorities to verify how much land the companies have under cultivation, to restore the land to its original owners and to ensure that IDPs who are yet to return do not face the same problem.

Director of Asia World U Sai Myint Thein told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the villagers had been relocated elsewhere since the outbreak of fighting and had no claim to any specific plot of land.

“We would not have charged them if they hadn’t destroyed the company’s palm oil plantations. But they did. We filed charges against a very few of them to ensure that the problem does not recur,” he said.

U Sai Myint Thein said the company wanted to negotiate with the villagers, and that the palm oil plantation was already creating job opportunities in the course of its CSR activities.

“If we can negotiate with the villagers not to destroy the plantation in the future and not to attack plantation workers, we will withdraw the lawsuit,” he said.

According to the FFI report, Asia World received permission for a 10,200-acre plantation in 2015, which is complete, and Shwe Padonmar received permission for 1200 acres, of which only 18 percent was complete in 2015.

The Myanmar Times has approached Shwe Padonmar but could not find a responsible official to provide comment.

Link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/22880-homecoming-brings-new-cast-of-problems-for-tanintharyi-idps.html

“I would rather stay here and die of starvation than go back to the camp,” said Ko Maung Maung.

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Authorities in Putao Township, Kachin State, issued an order to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp saying agencies and groups need permission to deliver aid.

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During his first visit to Kachin State the U.S. Ambassador, Scot Marciel, told internally displaced persons (IDPs) that he would report to the U.S. government on their situation and think of ways he can help them.

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The Burma Army raided an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp located inside a Kachin Baptist church compound in Sar Maw Village on the Myitkyina to Mandalay Railway line on 18 September.

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Due to the prevalence of landmines in the Maethawaw area, it is unsafe for displaced persons (IDPs) from the recent fighting to return to their homes, according to the local ethnic Karen Border Guard Force (BGF), which is operating under Burmese army command.

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In response to displacements following recent armed clashes in Kayin State, around 4000 people who took refuge in Myaing Gyi Ngu have received urgent assistance from the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), supplementing the timely and generous support already provided by the monastries, authorities and civil society.

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Burma Army officers tried to convince displaced ethnic Karen on Thursday to return to their villages, despite continuous daily fighting in Karen State’s Mae Tha Waw area, The Irrawaddy has learned.
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Three temporary schools have opened for children living in Myaing Gyi Ngu internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Karen State said the Tha Wor area group education officer, Teacher Sai Myo Nyunt.

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Thousands of villagers relocated ahead of renewed clashes in Kayin State are in need of food supplies, local sources say, after renewed skirmishes this week forced hundreds more from their homes.

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Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Man Win IDP Camp face food shortages because the Burma Army prevented trucks containing a month’s supply of rice from the World Food Programme (WFP) from reaching the camp.

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Burma’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement says it has delivered humanitarian supplies for over 3,800 villagers displaced by a recent wave of armed hostilities in Karen State.

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