Dis­placed Meik­tila Mus­lims stuck be­tween floods and le­gacy of vi­o­lence

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

EARLY this month, a group of Mus­lim fam­i­lies from Man­dalay Re­gion’s Meik­tila township tried un­suc­cess­fully to re­turn home for the first time since 2013, when wide­spread com­mu­nal vi­o­lence left more than 40 dead and 12,000 dis­placed.

Heavy rains had flooded their tem­po­rary hous­ing. Wa­ter was up to their knees. Liv­ing con­di­tions were un­bear­able. So on Oc­to­ber 1, they gath­ered their be­long­ings and re­turned to their old neigh­bour­hood, only to face a lessthan-neigh­bourly re­cep­tion.

A few days ear­lier, on Septem­ber 29, the dis­placed res­i­dents met at the township ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice to dis­cuss their de­sire to re­turn but of­fi­cials said they could of­fer no guar­an­tees, ac­cord­ing to U Min Thu from Wun Zin ward, who at­tended the meet­ing.

And when they ar­rived at their old homes, they were barred from re­turn­ing by the ward’s re­main­ing res­i­dents, who told them they needed of­fi­cial per­mis­sion for the home­com­ing.

“We can­not live here any longer be­cause there are many dif­fi­cul­ties at this tem­po­rary liv­ing place,” Min­galar Zay Yone ward res­i­dent Daw San San Tint said on Oc­to­ber 7. “When it rained heav­ily, wa­ter en­tered the houses so it caused an in­con­ve­nience for liv­ing, cook­ing and sleep­ing at night. We have to live to­gether in a small room with other fam­i­lies.”

Ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cials have not pro­vided se­cu­rity for the dis­placed, she said.

“No one can guar­an­tee our safety,” she said. “Aside from the se­cu­rity is­sues, there are no prob­lems and the sit­u­a­tion is peace­ful. The monks are also look­ing after us.”

The vi­o­lence in 2013 was sparked by a March 19 ar­gu­ment be­tween a Bud­dhist and a Mus­lim at a gold shop owned by the lat­ter. Ac­counts of that in­ci­dent and of the es­ca­la­tion in vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims vary, but wide­spread ri­ot­ing and the burn­ing of hun­dreds of homes left thou­sands – mostly Mus­lims – dis­placed by March 23, when a mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment had largely sta­bilised the sit­u­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Chan Aye Thar Yar ward’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice, about 250 dis­placed house­holds have since been liv­ing in tem­po­rary houses in the ward. “We have al­lowed about 150 dis­placed fam­i­lies from Kan Taw Min, Wun Zin, Yan Myo Aung, and Min­galar Zay Yone wards to live tem­po­rar­ily in ter­raced houses,” Chan Aye Thar Yar ward ad­min­is­tra­tor U San Tun told The Myan­mar Times on Oc­to­ber 7. “They want to move back to their orig­i­nal ward be­cause the tem­po­rary houses have been flood­ing with knee-high wa­ter.”

The Myan­mar Times at­tempted to reach Meik­tila township ad­min­is­tra­tor U Thet Naing over the course of two days to ask about the dis­placed res­i­dents’ sit­u­a­tion, but he did not re­spond.

“Our wards are now places of peace and tran­quil­lity,” U Min Thu told The Myan­mar Times on Oc­to­ber 8. “But authorities have not man­aged to re­set­tle us in our orig­i­nal homes and have not made a firm de­ci­sion about it.”

“We did not set fire to our own houses. We left our houses for a rea­son. It is the re­gional gov­ern­ment’s duty to help us to set­tle back in our orig­i­nal homes. We are not squat­ters so why do they not al­low us to re­turn?”

Ac­cord­ing to Im­mi­gra­tion Of­fice fig­ures, there are 272,239 Bud­dhists, 13,321 Mus­lims, 1074 Chris­tians and 795 Hin­dus in Meik­tila township.

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

A tem­po­rary house in Meik­tila township is flooded with rain­wa­ter.

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