“Relying on ourselves is the best way when facing challenges, I’ve made up my mind on this,” the State Counsellor told an event marking the second anniversary of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development (UEHRD) in Rakhine State in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday.
UEHRD is a public-private enterprise aimed at providing sustainable solutions to communal strife that has long plagued the state.
“We appreciate our friends for providing help, and I respect them,” she said. “But we as people have to rely on ourselves eventually. I want to raise such a spirit and make it firm in our union.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, said that if the people of Myanmar succeed in resolving the Rakhine conflict it will be a priceless legacy for generations to come.
“It is through self-confidence that we can leave a legacy for future generations,” she said. The Tatmadaw (military) has been fighting on multiple fronts in Rakhine, including against the predominantly Muslim Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which caused hundreds of thousands of Muslims to flee northern Rakhine to Bangladesh.
Last November, fighting erupted between the Tatmadaw and the predominantly Buddhist Arakan Army, which reportedly felt left out of development in Rakhine and is seeking more autonomy.
“No matter the difficulty we face, and though our country is not rich and powerful, we can face and overcome all these challenges with our collective strength.”
The State Counsellor said UEHRD’s work is not limited to Rakhine but is for the entire country.
Rakhine Chief Minister U Nyi Pu said the government is trying too hard to reconcile the different communities in the state.
“Peace and stability are the priorities in Rakhine, and we are trying our best,” he told the event.
Despite two failed attempts to start the repatriation of northern Rakhine refugees from Bangladesh, about 340 people have returned on their own, said U Win Myat Aye, minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
“They are arriving daily in groups of four or five,” he said, adding that sometimes as many as 15 people return.
Those who return have gone back to their original residences, or have gone to stay with relatives, U Win Myat Aye said, adding that arrangements are being made to rebuild their houses in their original villages or to relocate them.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are cooperating with the Myanmar government to start the repatriation as soon as possible, he added.
“The most important thing is the spread of information. If we can spread the news to the people on the other side what we are doing here, there are a lot of people who would come. If they can fill the forms we have given out, the repatriation process will begin,” he said.
Some international organisations have opposed the return of northern Rakhine refugees from Bangladesh because of concerns for their safety and lack of citizenship guarantees.