Trapped Rakhine Villagers: ‘We Are Starving’

Burma Army restrictions on locals’ movement in Rakhine State mean they cannot collect drinking water or gather food, sources say.

By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Locals and MPs say that more than 2,600 Rakhine villagers are facing food shortages because the Burma Army has increased troop deployment around Kyauktan village and prohibited travel to and from the community.

Villagers typically must leave the village to collect drinking water and harvest food.

“Our village situation is getting worse. We are starving. We have nothing to eat,” a local told NMG on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. “The Burma Army sent more reinforcement troops into our village today—about 80 soldiers are deployed in our village. Those soldiers come from a battalion in Buthidaung.”

The individual said that community members “are not permitted to go out of the village, and other people are not allowed to go into our village.”

“We don’t have anything to eat. We don’t have food. There are about 83 people being detained in the school,” the villager added. “We are sharing food among the villagers. We don’t have enough drinking water. There is no drinking water left in the water pool in our village. We cannot go out of the village to bring back drinking water.”

Soldiers have also banned people in Kyauktan from using their phones.

“They ordered us to turn off our phones. They don’t allow us to communicate with other people over the phone,” the local source told NMG.

Of some 275 detained villagers in the area, authorities released 100 on May 3 and 48 on May 6. Soldiers shot six villagers dead and wounded eight in their custody on May 2.

A group of monks reportedly came to the village of Kyauktan and asked the Burma Army soldiers to allow the residents to leave, but the request was denied.

Local MP Khin Maung Latt said that civilians have been suffering various violations of their rights due to clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State.

“Soldiers are investigating whether villagers have links with the AA forces, but their actions are too much. They are investigating villagers at the school. The school is not a place for investigation. If they want to investigate, they can investigate suspects at the police station or in a military detention camp,” he told NMG. “Now they are blocking the village… It’s already been over a week. I have never heard of this kind of investigation.”

Khin Maung Latt said that no one has been able to send food or water to the trapped villagers, because they are in a conflict area.

Ethnic Rakhine parliamentarians and members of the Arakan National Party have discussed the targeting of civilians by the Tatmadaw and released a statement condemning human rights violations in Rakhine State, and sent open letters to respective leaders.

“We are so worried in this situation. The civilian government has already gotten involved in this war. The government already said that the AA forces are terrorists,” Khin Maung Latt said. “It’s really difficult for MPs to work in this situation.”