Burma: Homelands confiscation continues in Arakan

February 4, 2012
Map of the 36 Rohingya villages of the Kyauktaw township in the western Burmese Arakan state along the Kaladan River.

Early in January, the Sa-Ka-Kha-9 military division based near the ancient Falom village seized about 50 houses and a mosque that had been built at the village's edge. It is one of 36 that are Rohingyan (a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority) in the Kyauktaw township in the western Burmese Arakan state along the Kaladan River.

These lands had been re-bought from the military by Falom villagers. For 17 years, until re-buying the land, the village consisted of 280 houses and some farm lands. The mosque was demolished by the military in 1995.

In recent years, the military sold-back some of these lands to the villagers. Villagers rebuilt about 50 houses and more are being built.

In 1995, the military forces led by sub-captain Mya Hlaing attacked villagers and drove them into the jungle. Dozens of villagers were detained and a few were brutally killed. The jungle was too deep and rough for the displaced villagers to live in.

Some of them went to other Rohingyan villages, some returned to stay around the graveyard of Falom village. The rest were settled near Namaungnya village.

In its latest attack, the military did not care that villagers have official papers for the land they bought back.

One Falom villager, Mr Noor, who has taken refuge in Australia, has approached Rohingya organisations to highlight his village's issue.

He said the military division responsible for the latest attack established itself near the village in about 1993 and forcefully occupied the village and lands in 1995.

The division then expanded its territory, using new techniques to extort money from villagers.

Despite promises from Burma's military-backed civilian government to end repressive policies towards Rohingya people ― such as arbitrary fines, “Muslim free zones” and extensive jail sentences ― nothing has yet changed.

The fact is, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the people of majority ethnic group within the Arakan state do not recognise the existence of the Rohingya people and they are still hostile towards them.

[For more information, Mr. Noor can be contacted at 0469 756 116.]

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