Myanmar has started shutting down three displacement camps in strife-torn Rakhine state, although it was not immediately clear where the inhabitants would go.
Tens of thousands of people from Rakhine’s Muslim and Buddhist communities ended up in internal displacement camps after sectarian violence ripped the impoverished region apart five years ago.
The move to shutter the first of those camps comes after a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan last month called on the government to close them as part of a series of measures designed to heal simmering ethnic tensions.
National Security Advisor Thaung Tun said the government had begun with three camps named in the commission’s report, including one sheltering ethnic Rakhines and one that houses Kaman Muslims.
The largest of the three includes more than 200 houses full of Rohingya Muslims, a heavily persecuted minority.
“We have initiated the process to close down three IDP (internally displaced persons) camps,” Thaung Tun told a briefing, without giving details of where people would be moved to.
“In Kyauk Phyu, there are IDP camps for Rakhines... Sittwe for the Rohingya group and Ramree... mostly for Kamans.”
Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its treatment of Rakhine’s more than one million Rohingya, who many from the Buddhist majority reject as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The vast majority are not granted citizenship and face severe restrictions on their access to education, healthcare, food and movements despite many living there for generations.