Thursday, 29 May 2008

Massive Forced Evictions in Refugee Camps

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s military government has been forcibly evicting tens of thousands of refugees who lost family members, houses and property during Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma on May 2-3.

Most of the evictions have occurred in temporary shelters in Rangoon and Irrawaddy divisions.

Authorities closed down several temporary camps in Rangoon on May 23, including a camps in Shwe Pauk Kan in North Okkalapa Township where 3,000 refugees were staying in temporary blue tents; tent camp No 16 Quarter of North Dagon Myo Thit at the junction of the township Peace and Development Council PDC office and Nat Sin Road bus-stop; and a camp at State High School No 2 of Dala Township.

"They closed the Shwe Pauk Kan refugee camp during the evening,” said a resident of No 16 Quarter at Shwe Pauk Kan. “They forced the people to return to their homes and gave them 10 pyis of rice and 7,000 kyats (US $6.5) to each refugee. The authorities took the tents." A pyi is close to 0.25 liter.

The Rangoon Division PDC issued an order that all refugee camps in Rangoon division be closed prior to May 24, said one source, who asked to remain anonymous.

"They also shut down the camp in Dagon North No 16 Quarter by this order,” he said. “The authorities are also planning to shut down small temporary shelters in schools and monasteries."

Authorities reportedly told refugees at No 2 State High School in Dala Township they had to leave because the school would reopen June 2.

"I went there to donate some snacks to children, and they were not there anymore,” said a volunteer donor. “The neighbors said they were forcibly evicted.”

Local authorities at Dala Township reportedly told refugees the emergency has now ended, and refugees must return to their villages where they should wait for assistance from the government.

Refugee sources said the Padan Camp in Hlaing Thar Yar Township, a site visited by Srn-Gen Than Shwe, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other diplomats, would be closed in the near future.

"There are about 10,000 refugees in the camp at inner Padan village. I have heard the camp will be demolished soon," said a refugee from inner Padan village, living at State Middle School No 7 in Hlaing Thar Yar Township.

He said refugees haven't received enough food and are still waiting for outside contributions of rice.

"A family is provided with two sacks of rice, two tins of cooking oil and a set of pots and pans. However, they are told not to touch the rice, oil and cooking utensils. It is for show when the authorities come and visit the site. We have to wait for other contributions for our daily food."

A refugee in his 30s said most people had no where to go when they were evicted.

"It is impossible to go back to inner Padan village, since the land owner would not hire us to work the land,” he said. “The land is close to the river and the flood hasn't drained yet since the cyclone hit. Water is still 2 to 3-feet deep in our village."

Sources in the Irrawaddy delta said thousands of refugees from Phyapon, Myaung Mya, Bogalay and Laputta townships also have been evicted from shelters.

"There were 45 camps in Pyapon Township previously but now only three remain, said a source familiar with the relief effort.

Starting on May 21, refugees were told they should wait in their villages for the government's reconstruction plan and were provided with small portions of rice and 10,000 kyats ($ 8).

The remaining refugees at Myaung Mya camps lack sufficient food and water, the source said. .

"Most of the refugees are sheltering at the No 933 Rice Mill compound, and there are almost 3,000 refugees,” said a resident of Myaung Mya. “These people are waiting daily for outside donors to give them rice. This camp will be closed soon."

The camp at No 16 High School in Myaung Mya has been closed and authorities sent the refugees back to their villages in Laputta by trucks and boats.

"It is inhumane and cruel, forcing the refugees to leave without proper assistance, just saying the relief period has ended and promising reconstruction efforts,” said one relief worker. “It is like sending people to their death."

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