Rakhine CSO Says State Has More Than 50,000 IDPs in Need of Aid

The figure is far in excess of the government’s estimate of just 1,400.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A civil society organization (CSO) based in Rakhine State says that there are more than 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the state, most of whom are unrecognized and receiving little if any assistance.

“There is no official camp for IDPs in Rakhine State. They have been staying in monasteries, schools and villages. They have to manage there on their own,” said Zaw Zaw Tun, the secretary of the local CSO the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC).

“There is no systematically collected list of the IDP population. According to the government’s data, there are around 1,400 IDPs in the state. The government may accept that figure, and I don’t want to argue about it. What I do want to say is that local people are facing difficulties on the ground and we need to figure out how to provide assistance to these people,” he told NMG.

One problem is that security restrictions in the northern part of the state are creating hardships for everyone in the region, not just IDPs. But it is those forced to flee their homes due to clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) who are suffering the most.

“Nongovernmental organizations can’t provide assistance to IDPs without permission from the Rakhine State government. They especially need food, such as rice, cooking oil, and salt. In the current situation, they can’t return to their homes. Clashes are still happening in Rakhine State. Their cattle and houses are already gone,” said Kyaw Than, the headman of Zayti Taung, a village in Buthidaung that is sheltering many IDPs.

According to a local MP, there are four unofficial IDP camps in Ponnagyun Township, where more than 1,300 IDPs are in need of humanitarian assistance, especially food.

“The situation is getting worse for IDPs. It’s difficult to get donation funds. It’s difficult for them to get food. People can’t travel freely, either by car or by boat, so we can’t send food to them,” upper house MP Khin Maung Latt told NMG.

According to the REC, travel has become almost impossible in parts of Rathedaung and Buthitaung townships due to the security situation.

“Roads are blocked because of landmine explosions, and waterways are also blocked. We can’t send aid supplies, and government assistance isn’t reaching them, either. IDPs really need food, and some also need construction materials to build shelters,” said Zaw Zaw Tun.
The REC estimates that there are a total of 55,797 IDPs in Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya, Sittwe, Maungtaw and Mrae Bon townships. According to the group, Mrauk-U has the highest concentration of IDPs in the state.