We have been ready for repatriation

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UEHRD Chief Coordinator Prof. Dr. Aung Tun Thet talks during an interview with Myanmar News Agency. Photo: Ye Htut

Rakhine repatriation

The Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) is implementing strategies to reconstruct and develop Rakhine State.
The following is an interview with UEHRD Chief Coordinator Prof. Dr. Aung Tun Thet on the present status of the implementation progress and the repatriation progress of returnees into Rakhine State.
(Interview continued from 5 April 2018)

By Thi Thi Min, Min Thit (MNA)

Q: International media agencies report that the Muslim residents in Maungtaw fled because of low food supply and fear for their security. How do you respond to that?
A: Everyone has their own anxieties and worries. My response is that we provide humanitarian aid from our side. The International Committee of the Red Cross is providing aid and the security forces are not stationed in that area. We have done what we can; if they don’t feel safe then there isn’t anything we can do.
Q: What are some difficulties for UEHRD in developing Maungtaw?
A: I don’t like to think of them as difficulties. That way of thinking can destroy a person’s motivations. They are challenges with opportunities. For example, we want to start building residences for the returnees, but we have no labour force. So we can transport workers from Yangon, Sittway, or other regions.

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Authorities inspect houses to be used for repatriation of returnees in Taung Pyo Letwe, Maungtaw, Rakhine State. Photo: Htay Aung

We also need more media coverage. We need our own people and the international community to know what we’re doing. Our people have a habit of doing the best we can, but neglecting to inform other people of it. But now we need to tell everyone what we’re doing so they can understand the current situation. We need to clearly define the worries of the Rakhine people too, and to that end the UEHRD has a domestic communications and relations team and an international one. We need to respond to the international media’s comments, we cannot just ignore them. We need to rationalize ourselves so that hate speech is not spread and conflicts are not instigated.
I’m personally delighted that civilian organisations like the Myanmar Engineers Society and the Myanmar Medical Association are helping with the various works in Rakhine. They do not view the situation as not concerning them. It’s also encouraging seeing the youth of the country helping out in humanitarian projects.
The UEHRD cooperates with the Union government, State Government, and the Implementation Committee headed by Union Minister Dr. Win Myat Aye. The Rakhine State Government has a five-year socio-economic development plan with six prioritized goals and the UEHRD has 10 goals. There’s not much difference between our goals, but they did not include communications as a goal.
We collect donations using information technology. Our dream is that the 51 million people in the country will be able to each donate Ks1,000 a month. The combined money will be enormous for the development of Rakhine State.
Something else to consider is how the UEHRD can use the experience gathered in Rakhine State to do similar development projects in Mon, Kayin and Kayah states and Taninthayi Region. There also needs to be an understanding between the government sector and private sector. The government sector is strict and operates on a framework, while the private sector is quick to take action. If we go too fast, then we may go astray, and if we focus too much on regulations, we may not reach the deadline. So it’s a delicate balancing act.

Humanitarian aids provided by voluntary youths in Buthidaung on 14 November. Photo MNA copy
Humanitarian aids provided by voluntary youths in Buthidaung, Rakhine State, on 14 November 2017. Photo: MNA

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell us concerning Rakhine State?
A: I wish for the public to be aware of the pressure from the international community. Some may consider what’s happening in Rakhine as inconsequential to them, but if they’re not informed then they will not be able to realize the true situation in their own country.
I want our people to remember the ‘middle way thinking’ mindset we have when dealing with things like these. Do not gravitate to any extreme points of view, and keep a rational and compassionate perspective.
It is also our duty to clarify to the countries that are misunderstanding the situation. I wish for the whole country to view the Rakhine situation as relating to them. Even if you cannot make it better, you have the power to keep it from getting worse.

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