Unaware Clearance Campaign Has Ended, Civilians Still Fleeing Homes

By Network Media Group
Thursday, July 2, 2020

Civilians are still fleeing their homes after the Burma Army launched a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine State even though the army claims it ended it.

Ko Bakker, who’s helping villagers, told NMG because news travels slowly in rural Rakhine State many are unaware of the Tatmadaw’s order to vacate their villages in Kyauktan village-tract on June 24 ended on June 26.

“The Internet has been cut off in most townships in Rakhine State, including Rathedaung Township (where the clearance campaign occurred) and it’s why they’re still fleeing. They don’t have time to watch TV or read the newspaper.”

Thousands in Kyauktan village-tract abandoned their homes during clashes between Tatmadaw and Arakan Army (AA), with shells reportedly landing around villages, according to multiple sources. Many fled to other parts of Rathedaung Township or went to Sittwe, Buthidaung and Ponnagyun townships where they’re facing food shortages and finding it difficult to find materials to make temporary shelters.

Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of the Rakhine Ethnics Congress (REC), told NMG there was a lot of fighting before the clearance operation started. “Soldiers arrested residents and interrogated them. They raided homes and assaulted villagers based on suspicion.”

“What I want to say is whether or not this order is withdrawn, they (the army) should stop military operations in the area because the locals have suffered immensely,” he says.

Fighting in Rathedaung township is still happening, Zaw Zaw Tun says. “The soldiers should stick to the order and withdraw from the area. If they continue to launch military operations in the area, people will suffer over and over again.”

Human rights groups say both Tatmadaw and AA have harmed civilians during fighting in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township, located in southern Chin state.

To stop the human rights abuses, Khin Saw Wai, a parliamentarian for Rathedaung Township, urged both sides to meet for peace talks.

“In my opinion, it is important for the stakeholders to meet. They can discuss what one side wants and what the other side can provide. AA is fighting for what it wants to get. The government needs to decide how much it will provide. Civilians will be free from suffering after peace is restored in the country.”