Thousands of Rakhine State IDPs Are ‘Really Suffering’ Without Aid, Civil Society Says

By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Tuesday, August 26, 2019

Of some 60,000 people internally displaced (IDPs) in Rakhine State due to armed conflict, civil society organizations say that those in some townships have been unable to get humanitarian assistance.

According to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC), more than 3,000 IDPs in Mrauk-U and 1,000 in Ponnagyun, as well as a number of vulnerable communities in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships are in need of emergency aid.

“IDPs in Phakywe and Ahtet Myat Lae in Ponnagyun Township and Sinbaw Kai and Chawmi in Mrauk-U Township, and on the east bank of Mayu River in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships have been suffering because the road cannot be used in the rainy season, and the army has blocked the waterway. So they haven’t gotten any assistance. They are really suffering,” secretary of REC Zaw Zaw Tun told NMG.

In Buthidaung Township, there are nearly 2,360 IDPs in five communities, and more than 630 at two sites in Maungdaw.

“IDP camps which are located in the area of the army’s active movements as well as those far from municipal areas—these IDPs have suffered more than others,” Zaw Zaw Tun said.

Local sources told NMG that civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations have provided assistance to displaced people in areas closer to towns and where roads remain open and accessible.

According to REC, there are a total of 61,093 IDPs in the state, including 22,2422 in camps and 38,851 outside of IDP camps, with many staying with relatives, or moving village to village.

“Many villagers flee from village to village. It’s very strange. If a military column enters a village, the villagers flee to other village. Another military column enters that village, and they flee again. They are repeatedly fleeing,” Zaw Zaw Tun said.

It’s very difficult to provide aid to people who have to frequently run away, he added. “IDPs who are repeatedly fleeing their area are facing more difficulties than IDPs who seek refuge in camps,” the REC secretary explained, referring to those displaced in Rathedaung and Minbya townships.

Hla Thein Aung, a parliamentarian for Minbya Township said that while he wasn’t sure if clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) were occurring, Burma Army battalions based the area were opening fire every day.

“Many villagers are trapped. We cannot pick up them and they cannot go out of their village. I think nearly 4,000 people are trapped. Roads are blocked by the army,” the MP said. “I want to say that this is a human rights abuse. I want to demand that the army allow our people to leave for a safe place.”

Khaing Thukha, the spokesperson for the AA, said that the government forces are continuing and intensifying offensives in Rakhine State.

“The Burma Army has sent army and navy reinforcement troops. Military offensives are even stronger than before,” he explained. “We have especially had clashes in Minbya, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Ponnagyun in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in southern Chin state. Their offensives have gone on for nearly one month. Clashes occur in Rakhine State almost every day.”

Clashes were particularly severe between the Burma Army and AA in Minbya, Buthidaung and Ponnagyun townships from August 19-20. Meanwhile, military tensions escalated in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Sittwe, Rathedaung, Maungdaw and Myebon townships.