Myanmar warned against premature resettlement
Sat May 31, 5:10 AM ET
YANGON, Myanmar – A U.N. official on Saturday warned against prematurely resettling parts of human rights groups lashed out at the country’s military leaders for evicting storm refugees from relief camps.destroyed by a cyclone and
Hundreds, if not thousands, of displaced people also have been expelled from schools, monasteries and public buildings, Human Rights Watch said in a release Saturday. In the nation’s biggest city,, there were eyewitness reports of one such eviction from a Christian church.
Another group, Refugees International, said authorities appeared to be trying to get villagers back to their land to begin tending their fields and reviving agriculture.
“While agriculture recovery is indeed vital, forcing people home without aid makes it harder for aid agencies to reach them with assistance,” it said.
Anupama Rao Singh, regional director of thewho visited the affected area recently warned Saturday against premature resettlement, even if it’s voluntary. She did not confirm that evictions had taken place.
“Premature resettlements to the villages, even if it’s voluntary, will cause serious risks to the refugees,” she said.
“Many of the villages remain inundated with water, making it difficult to rebuild. There is also a real risk that once they are resettled, they will be invisible to aid workers. Without support and continued service to those affected, there is a risk of a second wave of disease and devastation,” she added.
An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry from this month’s cyclone, which left at least 134,000 people dead or missing.
junta‘s handling of the humanitarian crisis, saying obstruction of international efforts to help cyclone victims cost “tens of thousands of lives.”added his voice Saturday to critics of the
Gates, speaking in Singapore, said the U.S. has not had problems helping other countries in natural disasters while still respecting their sovereignty.
With Myanmar, he said, “the situation has been very different — at a cost of tens of thousands of lives. Many other countries besides the United States also have felt hindered in their efforts.”
He said that the U.S. will continue to try to get aid in. U.S. ships off the coast of Myanmar are poised to leave because they have been blocked from delivering assistance to the ravaged country.
Shortly after the cyclone struck, the U.S., France and Britain sent warships loaded with relief supplies, but the Myanmar regime has refused to let them land, apparently fearing a foreign invasion.
“We have reached out, frankly, to Myanmar multiple times during this crisis in very direct ways,” Gates said. “It’s not been us that have been deaf and dumb in response to the pleas of the international community, but the government of Myanmar. We have reached out, they have kept their hands in their pockets.”
Eight camps set up for homeless survivors in the Irrawaddy River delta town of Bogalay were “totally empty” as authorities continued to move people out of them, said Teh Tai Ring of .
After his statement was reported, UNICEF issued a statement saying the remarks referred to “unconfirmed reports by relief workers on the relocation of displaced people affected by” the May 2-3 storm.
Separately, at a church in, more than 400 cyclone victims from a delta township, Labutta, were evicted Friday following orders from authorities a day earlier.
“It was a scene of sadness, despair and pain,” said a church official at the Yangon Karen Baptist Home Missions in Yangon, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of official reprisal.
All the refuge seekers except some pregnant women, two young children and those with severe illnesses left the church in eleven trucks Friday morning.
The authorities told church workers that the victims would first be taken to a government camp in Myaung Mya — a mostly undamaged town in the Irrawaddy delta — but it was not immediately clear when they would be resettled in their villages.
The government’s reasons for allegedly moving people out of camps and shelters have not been publicly clarified, but it earlier declared that the “relief” phase of the rescue effort over and said it was time for “reconstruction.”
Foreign aid experts disagree, arguing that many people still need of emergency assistance of food, shelter or medical care.
“Our teams are still encountering people who have not seen any aid workers and still have not received any assistance. Some of the villages that are only accessible by foot are particularly vulnerable,” said the aid group Doctors Without Borders.
- Slideshow: Tens of thousands killed in Myanmar cyclone <!– (510)
- How to help victims of the cyclone at Network for Good