Seven-Thousand Villagers Displaced in Rakhine State In April

By Network Media Group
Saturday, May 2, 2020

An ethnic rights group found that Tatmadaw clearance campaigns led to thousands of displaced civilians in Rakhine State in April.

Although fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA) decreased slightly last month, the Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC) discovered clearance campaigns by the Tatmadaw increased and were the leading cause for 7,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burma’s western state. Tatmadaw air strikes and artillery attacks on villages, as well as fighting with AA, also led to many civilian casualties last month.

Last week, about 500 new IDPs took shelter in a Buddhist monastery in downtown Buthitaung. Zaw Zaw Tun, who is working with REC, said the villagers need emergency food. Locals are giving what they can but it’s not enough. About 3,000 civilians were also displaced this week in Minbya and Ponnagyun townships, he said.

Fighting in Rakhine State has intensified in 2020 and is spreading further south, posing new challenges for groups like REC that are monitoring the civilians displaced by the conflict. It’s become increasingly difficult to keep track of who’s been affected by the clashes and where they have fled to with fighting breaking out simultaneously in multiple locations across the war-racked state, Zaw Zaw Tun explained.

Oo Tun Win, who is a parliamentarian for Kyauktaw township, told NMG more than 600 IDPs arrived in Apoukwa, located in Kyauktaw township, with only the clothes on their backs. The parliamentarian said the villagers from the upper part of Kalandan and Kispanady rivers “need many things.” Oo Tun Win said they’re trying to provide the IDPs with basic food rations but can’t offer them much else.

Civil society organisations helping the IDPs in Rakhine State said they didn’t receive regular support from international aid groups last month. IDPs need food and clean drinking water, and their shelters need repairs before the rainy season comes.

Aung Thaung, who is a parliamentarian for Buthitaung township, told NMG the Army is attacking civilians. “Many people are scared and there’s nowhere safe to run to.” The parliamentarian called on the government to end it’s internet block and to allow journalists free access to report about the conflict in Rakhine State.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zaw Zaw Tun worries about the security and health of his staff who have to travel to the conflict zones where the villagers are sheltering. He said some areas are difficult to reach and they can only verify information about the IDPs by phone.