India builds 250 homes in Myanmar to assist Rohingya

But rebuilding refugees’ trust is tough
Two years after more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to camps in Bangladesh alleging ethnic cleansing by Myanmar forces, the Indian government says it is stepping up efforts to help them return to their villages. On July 9, Ambassador to Myanmar Saurabh Kumar handed over 250 completed pre-fabricated homes to the Myanmar government for use by the refugees when they return. The project is part of an agreement signed by the two governments in 2017, according to which the government had committed to spending $25 million over five years. The houses, measuring 40 square metres each, are designed to survive quakes and cyclonic storms, according to a presentation by the Ministry of External Affairs. The 250 houses, built in three separate clusters, are in Shwe Zar, Kyein Chaung Taung and Nan Thar Taung areas that saw some of the worst violence which included mass murder, gangrapes of women and children and thousands of homes being burnt, have cost about Rs. 10 crore. However, there are no signs yet that the Rohingya will return at any specific date. According to a senior official involved in the disbursement, the Myanmar government has also handed over a list of 21 other projects that it wants India to fund as part of the agreement, including the construction of small villages, culverts and school buildings. The government official said contrary to the general impression that the Myanmar government is resisting the return of the Rohingya, it is actually keen on assuring them of a safe passage to their villages, and India wants to “create incentives” for the refugees to go home. Making the situation worse are monsoon rains and flooding at the camps in Bangladesh that have already affected about 45,000 people since April this year, even as international funding for the camps dwindles. Despite the desperate situation for them, there are no signs yet that the Rohingya refugees will return at any specific date, and officials could not confirm when they would actually occupy the houses being built by India and also by Japan, China and ASEAN countries for them. Building trust, they say, is far more difficult than simply rebuilding Rohingya homes and villages. .

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