Thousands of Rakhine State Villagers Flee One-Sided Shooting By Burma Army

Monday, December 30, 2019

More than 3,000 people rom Yotayok village in Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun Township have fled the area after the Burma Army fired arms into the community this weekend—an action which was reportedly unprovoked.

Both guns and heavy weapons were fired into Yotayok on the night of December 28, Ponnagyun parliamentarian Khin Maung Latt told NMG.

“Villagers have fled their village out of fear. More than 1,000 households, with more than 1,200 families, are living in the village. A total of 6,600 people are living in the village. Half population has already fled,” Khin Maung Latt said.

The Burma Army’s military column entered the area on December 23.

“Villagers told me that the Burma Army opened fire with two rounds of RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) at 10:00 p.m. Then they shot another round of RPGs at 11:00 p.m. Villagers heard sound of many small arms being shot. At that time, there were no clashes in their area. Villagers told me that they saw Burma Army had opened fire,” the MP explained.

The internally displaced people (IDPs) are now in need of aid, locals said. According to local volunteer groups, the IDP population is increasing in Rakhine State due to ongoing armed conflict and military occupation.

“I heard sound of guns shooting from the army’s camp. The Burma Army is stationed there. Their base is near the police station,” a villager told NMG on the condition of anonymity. “Many villages have fled. Soldiers are staying at the houses where the owners have fled.”

According to Khin Maung Latt, villagers in Ponnagyun frequently flee because of clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army, and return when the fighting halts.

“We want regional stability and peace in the area. In practice, we cannot say anything to those holding the guns. The people are suffering a lot. They are very scared,” he said. “I think the government must try to restore stability in the area. The government should provide aid to these villagers. Government should go and observe the situation on the ground. It seems there is no government at all.”

Yotayok is located on the highway that connects Yangon with the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe. The area has seen many clashes in recent years.

The government has imposed an internet blackout in four townships in Rakhine State since June 1, including in Ponnagyun. The blocks on communication have made it difficult to share reports of the conflict and to provide aid to those who need it.