IDPs Still Can’t Return to Villages in Rathedaung

By Network Media Group
Thursday, August 20, 2020

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been displaced by fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA) in Burma’s Rakhine State since the end of June have not been able to return to their homes.

Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC), told NMG that both armies are in a standoff near Kyauktan area, located in Rathedaung Township. “Even though the Burma Army said it wouldn’t launch a military clearance operation in the area, it’s completely unsafe for residents.”

Despite the dangers, a few IDPs have returned because there isn’t enough space in Rathedaung town where most have fled after the Tatmadaw’s military clearance campaign drove them from their homes on June 24.

Recently, Zaw Zaw Tun said there’s been a series of explosions near their villages.
On August 16, two residents of Kyauktan village were injured after a shell struck.

Civil society organizations that are helping IDPs said there are more than 40,000 in Rathedaung. Most villagers from the area of Kyauktan are staying on the outskirts of Rathedaung as there is not enough room in the IDP camps in the town.

Khin Saw Wai, a parliamentarian for Rathedaung township, told NMG the Tatmadaw justified the military clearance campaign as necessary to force out AA soldiers staying in the villages. Burma Army soldiers searched homes and arrested residents after accusing them of supporting the ethnic armed organization. Residents of 43 villages have fled, she said. “Young people are afraid to live in their villages because of the army’s clearance operation.”

Zaw Zaw Tun said when Tatmadaw launches an offensive, “they open fire” on a village before entering. Then all the men and women are rounded up. They are deprived of food while being interrogated by the Army. Sometimes the soldiers beat them when they don’t understand their questions or can’t answer. They check every family registration to see if anyone is missing. If a family member isn’t present the soldiers will beat their relatives.

Locals say more than 10,000 villagers from the area of Kyauktan fled their homes.

During a July 25 press conference in Naypyitaw, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, secretary of Burma Army’s True News Information Team, told the media the army stopped referring to their offensives as “clearance operations” because the meaning is misconstrued by civilians.

“Clearance operation means we’ll attack hidden terrorists from the area. Soldiers understand the meaning of the word. But many people interpret this as we will move all the locals out of the area. That is why we stopped using ‘clearance operation’. Now we use the right word ‘counter-terrorism’. Now we are launching a ‘counter-terrorism’ operation.”