Among the dead at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, which houses about 4,000 Rohingya in sittwe township, were two children, aged 11 and 12, they said. The others who perished are men aged 20, 30, 45, and 60.
Charges have been filed against a Rohingya man who caused the fire that resulted in about 37 million kyats (U.S. $23,150) in damage, fire department officials said.
The blaze burned down 15 buildings that housed more than 800 people from 141 households, forcing them to seek shelter with relatives or in tents, they said.
“Two-thirds of the fire victims are staying in temporary tents because their relatives don’t have any more room in their homes,” a local resident who did not provide his name told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “They urgently need food and waterproof plastic sheets for their temporary tents.”
The Rakhine government has paid 300,000 kyats (U.S. $188) to each family member of those who died in the fire, said state government spokesman Win Myint. It has also provided a weeks’ worth of rice and other goods to the affected families and is building a temporary shelter for those lost their homes.
Myanmar is in the process of closing down IDP camps in Rakhine’s Sittwe district and in Kyauktaw and Myebon townships, where mostly Rohingya were housed following waves of clashes in the ethnically and religiously divided state in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead and displaced about 140,000 Muslims.
More than 94,000 Rohingya live in the a dozen IDP camps that remain in Sittwe township.
Colonel Phone Tint, Rakhine state’s security and border affairs minister, told RFA on Friday that the government has built 100 houses for Muslim IDPs Myebon, and plans to build 642 houses more there so that the township’s camps can be shut down.
“We are also working to shut down IDP and refugee camps in Sittwe township,” he said.
In August, authorities closed the Nidin IDP camp in Kyauktaw township and resettled the nearly 600 Rohingya who had been living there in new homes in Nidin village.
The camps closures are being overseen by a Myanmar government committee responsible for implementing recommendations by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, a group led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan that proposed ways to solve sectarian tensions between Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in the state.
The commission’s report called for the closure of IDP camps and for reviews of Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which prevents the Rohingya from becoming citizens, and an end to restrictions on Rohingya to prevent further violence in the region.
‘We are living in a jail’
Those still confined to the camps complain about restrictions on their movements and other limitations that are part of the systematic discrimination that the Rohingya face in Myanmar where they are denied citizenship because they are seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
“We face many hardships in the camp,” said Thein Maung, an official at the Darpaing IDP camp in the rural area of Sittwe township.
“We could travel freely before when we lived in Sittwe, [but] we now have to travel with security guards even we really need to travel for emergency health care,” he said. “It is like we are living in a jail.”
Though the Muslims who live in the camp have rice, cooking oil, salt, and some medicine, they didn’t have cooking oil for two months, but were given money instead, he said.
Thein Maung also said that he told U.N. agency officials about the difficulties the Muslims face when they visited the camp in early October.
When the Muslims first lived in this camp, they only had coconuts to eat because they couldn’t buy rice as none was available even if they could pay for it.
But then the World Food Programme stepped in and began providing rice, he added.
“If they pay us money instead for rice and cooking oil, these items are very expensive and we are not allowed to travel to buy them,” he said.
Kyaw Sein, who lives in the Bawduba IDP camp in Sittwe, said that donors who have provided food to the Rohingya who live there since 2012 don’t always provide enough for them to eat.
“We have food if there are donors, but we have nothing to eat if there are no donors,” he said. “The donors haven’t given us enough rice this month, and they don’t give us any more cooking oil.”
“We can’t work outside the camp because we are not allowed to leave,” he said. “It’s terrible.”
Myanmar has also been building houses for Rohingya refugees who will return to Rakhine state from Bangladesh under a repatriation program that has yet to fully get underway.
About 720,000 Rohingya fled the region and headed across the border during a brutal military crackdown in northern Rakhine state in 2017, a campaign that amounted to genocide according to the U.N. Human Rights Council and other members of the international community.
A report issued by a U.N.-backed fact-finding mission in September detailed violence by Myanmar security forces and called for the prosecution of top military commanders on genocide charges at the International Criminal Court or by another criminal tribunal.