Villagers Flee as Burma Army, AA Clashes Intensify

Burma Army restrictions on access to conflict-affected areas have made it nearly impossible to provide relief.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Local villagers across a wide area of northern Rakhine and southern Chin states have been forced to flee their homes as Burma Army forces intensify their offensive against the Arakan Army (AA) with combat helicopters and heavy artillery.

In northern Rakhine State’s Buthitaung Township, there have been reports of intense fighting since Wednesday, according to local sources.

“All villagers in southern Buthitaung Township are fleeing from the clashes,” said Aung Thaung Shwe, the MP for Buthitaung Township, adding that it has been impossible to provide relief due to Burma Army restrictions on access to the area.

“Even the ICRC can’t go there. The army doesn’t allow it. All relief organizations are prohibited from going there,” he told NMG.

According to Aung Thaung Shwe, some people have been unable to escape and remain trapped in their homes.

“Three people are still stuck in Shitshar Taung, a village in Sankoe Taung village-tract in Buthitaung Township. One is a 90-year-old grandmother who is there with her disabled son and a mentally ill woman. They are trapped in the village. Everyone else has fled,” he said.

The AA confirmed reports of clashes between Burma Army and AA forces in Buthitaung, Ponnagyun, and Mrauk-U townships in Rakhine State on July 17 and in Paletwa Township in southern Chin State on July 18.

“There were many clashes in Ponnagyun, Buthitaung and Mrauk-U townships. The fighting has been intensifying. The Burma Army’s combat helicopters attacked our forces in Buthitaung Township twice. They also fired on our forces with heavy artillery the whole night. There were also two clashes near Pyi Taung village in Paletwa Township in Chin state on Thursday,” AA spokesperson Khaine Thukha told NMG.

The fighting on Wednesday took place near the villages of Khamee Kyein Chaung and Nang Tin in Ponnagyun Township, the village of Kanpyin in Buthitaung, and at Oakhpo Kan, a village in Mrauk-U Township.

NMG contacted the Burma Army’s True News Information team for comment but didn’t receive a response.

According to statistics compiled by the Rakhine Ethnic Nationals Association, nearly 50,000 people have so far been displaced by the conflict between the Burma Army and the AA. Human rights groups also say that civilians in the conflict-affected area are facing severe human rights abuses.

The Burma Army has declared unilateral ceasefires in five regional military commands across the country, enabling it to concentrate on its offensive against the AA.