Thousands Flee as Burma Army, AA Clash in Buthidaung

Residents of four villages were forced to abandon their homes amid the latest clashes in northern Rakhine State.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Clashes between the Burma Army, or Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army (AA) over the weekend have forced thousands of local villagers in northern Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township to flee their homes.

Fighting on Saturday near the village of Nwar Yon Tawng triggered the latest mass displacement of civilians in the conflict-hit region. According to sources in the area, several villages were affected.

“Villagers from Nwar Yon Tawng, San Goe Htoung, Oo-Yintha, and Kan Pyin have fled from the clashes, some to Zaytitaung and some to Buthidaung,” Aung Thaung Shwe, the MP for Buthidaung, told NMG. Others have reportedly taken refuge in the villages of Kwasone and Kyauk Yan.

One resident of Nwar Yon Tawng said the fighting began late Saturday afternoon.

“The clashes occurred around 3:30pm. People started fleeing their homes because we heard the sound of heavy artillery being fired. We were really afraid when we heard the gunfire. It was not very far from the village,” said the villager from Nwar Yon Tawng.

According to Aung Thaung Shwe, there were reports that seven houses in the village had been destroyed by fire. However, residents said they couldn’t confirm these reports.

“We could see smoke coming from the village, but we are afraid to go back to see for ourselves, so we can’t say for sure if it was houses that were burned down or something else,” said the villager who spoke to NMG.

Residents of Nwar Yon Tawng say they are reluctant to return to their homes because a Burma Army column has been deployed on the hill near the village since the fighting stopped.

“We are still afraid to go back because the Tatmadaw has temporarily deployed its forces on the hill near our village. They fired artillery shells three times at around 2am on July 14. I don’t know which direction they were shooting because I didn’t see it, but I could hear them firing their guns,” said the villager from Nwar Yon Tawng.

According to Aung Thaung Shwe, the conflict has taken a severe toll on the livelihoods of people living in his constituency.
“Villagers have to keep abandoning their fields every time there are fresh clashes, because it isn’t safe for them to stay on their farmland. They are facing economic hardship,” he told NMG.

NMG tried to contact Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, the secretary of the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team, and Khaing Thukha, the person in charge of the AA’s information department, but neither responded to requests for comment.

Both sides in the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State have been accused of human rights abuses.