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Myanmar Set To Close 3 Refugee Camps In Rakhine State

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Step being taken on recommendation of advisory commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan

Myanmar government is working to close three refugee camps in troubled Rakhine state as recommended by an advisory commission, a senior official said Tuesday.

National Security Advisor to Myanmar President Thaung Tun said regional and union governments are facilitating the return and relocation of some people including 215 Rohingya families, who have been sheltering in three internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Rakhine state for nearly five years.

The camps also house 55 ethnic Kaman Muslim households and 65 ethnic Rakhine Buddhist households, he added.

“Three IDP camps in Sittwe, Kyauk Phyu and Ramree will be closed very soon,” he told the international diplomats in former capital, Yangon.

As an initial step for resettlement of about 120,000 people, who have been confined to IDP camps across the state since the communal violence broke out in 2012, Noble laureate Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission had made recommendations last month to close the camps immediately.

The 12 recommendations that the government can take to immediately improve the situation include urgent training for security forces for better respect of human rights, closure of all camps for IDPs, media and humanitarian access to the conflict areas and allowing Muslim representation in local administrations.

Since mid-2012, the region has seen a series of incidents of communal violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya which have left around 100 people dead and some 120,000 displaced in camps -- mostly members of the Rohingya minority.

Myanmar has long faced international condemnation for its persecution of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state.

The issue reached a boiling point in recent months after the army launched a bloody crackdown in the northern part of Rakhine following a gang's killing of nine police officers in border police outposts raids in October last year.

The UN Human Rights Council decided last month to send an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar to investigate the atrocities against Rohingya Muslims that UN experts and human rights groups say may amount to crimes against humanity or ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, however, rebuffed the United Nations decision, saying it does not reflect the situation on ground.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi last week denied there is Rohingya ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

"I don't think there is ethnic cleansing going on,” Suu Kyi said during an exclusive interview with the BBC.

However, European Rohingya Council has rejected Suu Kyi’s denial, saying she is regurgitating lies and deceptions that have been constantly repeated.

"Aung San Suu Kyi’s deception is quite astonishing and contrary to reality,” Dr. Hla Kyaw, chairman of the council, said in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

“Even at the time she was speaking to the journalist, Myanmar armed forces were arresting, intimidating Rohingya," he said, noting the recent arrests of 11 innocent Rohingya from the village of Doe Tan by the army and the destruction of religious infrastructures in Maungdaw and elsewhere.

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