UNHCR alarmed at IDP deaths in Rakhine State, western Myanmar

Briefing Notes, 28 June 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency is concerned at a violent incident yesterday in western Myanmar's Rakhine state that killed two internally displaced people and wounded six others including two minors.

The incident took place on Thursday morning in the Kyein Ni Pyin IDP camp in Pauktaw township of Rakhine state. This is a site where UNHCR has been building temporary shelters for some 4,400 Rohingya displaced by last year's inter-communal violence.

The incident is believed to have started over a dispute between displaced people and a village leader. A reportedly poor relationship between them had been compounded by false rumours that displaced people would be isolated and prevented from returning to their places of origin. When some of the displaced gathered at a nearby military post asking that the leader be handed over, gunfire was used by the authorities to disperse the crowd and resulting in the fatalities and wounding.

UNHCR staff arrived at the scene shortly after to follow up with the victims' families and facilitate medical attention to the injured. We are also concerned about the safety of the village leader and his family.

UNHCR is calling for an investigation into the incident. We are appealing to the authorities to handle the matter in a peaceful and calm way to avoid fuelling further violence and loss of life. We are also calling for dialogue between the involved parties to resolve the grievance. Joint efforts by the government, community leaders and humanitarian actors are also needed to dispel rumours about the rights of displaced people to return to their places of origin in Kyein Ni Pyin and other villages where these sentiments have been emerging.

As the lead agency for shelter, camp coordination, camp management and protection in the humanitarian response in Rakhine state, UNHCR's current priority is to provide temporary relief for the displaced during the rainy season. We strongly believe that the government must build confidence with the communities and promote reconciliation, so that those displaced can eventually return to their areas of origin.

Thursday's tragic incident also indicates the urgent need to strengthen the camp coordination and camp management work which is grossly underfunded despite current needs.

A year after the first wave of inter-communal violence erupted in June 2012, there are still up to 140,000 people displaced within Rakhine state.

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