Govt Orders Rakhine Villagers Out of Their Homes Ahead of Military Offensives

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Burmese government should provide food and shelter to villagers displaced by so-called Burma Army “clearance operations” in Rakhine State, parliamentarians and civil society representatives say.

Rakhine State’s border affairs minister recently informed locals in Kyauktan village tract in Rathedaung Township that they should leave their communities as the military was preparing to launch an offensive in the area in its ongoing armed conflict with the Arakan Army. The message was delivered through the township’s General Administration Department officer, then to the village headmen, according to Rathedaung parliamentarian Khin Saw Wai.

The area is home to more than 40 villages.

“They did not say the date that the clearance operation would start,” she said. “I think the government needs to provide assistance to these people, because the Burma Army has ordered locals to temporarily leave their villages during the clearance operations.”

Khin Saw Wai, Rathedaung’s parliamentarian, told NMG, adding that the government needed to take “full responsibility” for the villagers’ needs if they were unable to stay in their homes.

Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC), said that the order would affect tens of thousands of people.

“They are going to launch a clearance operation in the area including villages where there have been clashes, and where there have not been clashes. That’s why they ordered all local people to leave their villages,” he explained. “The government has the full responsibility of protecting these people. The government is implementing the army’s order. It seems that civilians are lacking protection from both the government and the army.”

Zaw Zaw Tun added that the order creates more hardship amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as a human rights abuse.

“Where should people go to stay? There is no space in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps, which are already full of displaced people. Who is going to provide for these people?” he said.

The order issued by the border affairs minister stated that the military had received information that Arakan Army troops had been deployed in Kyauktan village tract and warned locals against accommodating them.

Local civil society organizations have reported that locals in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State are struggling to find enough food because of the ongoing clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army, and the continuing blockage of roads and supply routes.

There are 156,456 IDPs in Rakhine State due to the fighting, according to the REC.