Kyauktan Villagers Released, But Community Remains Under Blockade

Villagers say they are “starving” and that livestock are dying of thirst.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The remaining villagers detained in the Burma Army-occupied community of Kyauktan in Rathedaung Township in Rakhine State were freed on Monday, but the village remains under lockdown, locals say.

Burma Army soldiers arrested more than 200 Kyauktan villagers on April 30 and interrogated them within the village high school, trying to determine if they had links to the Arakan Army (AA). They released 126 people on May 2, 48 people on May 6, 35 people on May 8, 21 on May 11, and 22 on May 13.

“Over 20 remaining villagers were released today. Two AA suspects were transferred to Sittwe today,” a local, who spoke to NMG on the condition of anonymity, said on Monday.

The Office of the Commander-in-Chief reported that the two men were Tun Min Naing, 20 years old, and Nay Lin Tun, 18 years old, and that they had allegedly confessed to being AA members.

Locals say they are still facing a food shortage because they have been barred from gathering food outside the community, or buying and bringing in rice and water.

“Even though they released all villagers, they are still blocking our village. Nobody is allowed to leave or come into our village. So we are starving,” the local told NMG. “We don’t have drinking water. It’s really difficult to get water in Rakhine State especially in the dry season. There is no water left in the three water storage ponds in our village. Over 10 cows and buffalos have died because they couldn’t drink water.”

Despite the release of the last detained villagers, parliamentarian Khin Maung Latt said that because of the continued blockade, “the situation is the same as before.”

“They are starving. Well-off villagers are also starving,” he explained. “We could only give a small amount of food these days. Our delivery of food is not enough for them,” Khin Maung Latt said of the community, which has between 400 and 500 people. The delivery happened when MPs visited the village, and previously when monks visited.

“There are many people who want to donate food, but they cannot send food to the village. It’s really bad,” he added.

A local described the situation as “like being trapped.”

Khin Maung Latt said that villagers are traumatized by these extralegal Burma Army actions, and that suspects’ guilt or innocence must be decided by a court rather than by soldiers.

In the Kyauktan interrogations, six villagers were killed and eight wounded in gunfire.

According to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, the Burma Army seized a temporary AA camp near Phong Nyo Lek in Buthidaung Township on April 30, and that AA members hid in Kyauktan and Zaytitaung villages. Soldiers detained 275 villagers in Kyauktan and checked their names against their family registration documents