UNHCR consternation at killing of two IDPs in Myanmar's Rakhine state

UNHCR calls for an investigation and urges the authorities to handle the matter in a peaceful and calm way to avoid fuelling further violence and loss of life.

A displaced mother and her two children in Rakhine state. They originally came from the Pauktaw area, where Thursday's violent incident occurred.  © UNHCR/P.Behan

YANGON, Myanmar, June 28 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency said on Friday that it was concerned about a violent incident in western Myanmar's Rakhine state that killed two internally displaced people (IDP) 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 ethnic Rohingya displaced by last year's inter-communal violence in Myanmar.

The violence is believed to have been triggered by 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 spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.

"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," he added.

UNHCR is calling for an investigation into the incident. The agency is 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," Edwards said, adding: "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. The refugee agency strongly believes 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, there are still up to 140,000 people displaced within Rakhine state.