Rakhine IDPs Struggle to Get Assistance

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Rakhine State and the civil society organizations helping them say they are having difficulties securing aid for the growing number of people affected by fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA).

On January 25, the Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) reported that there were a total of 106,614 IDPs in Rakhine State.

“As far as I know, some IDP camps have yet to receive any assistance,” Zaw Zaw Tun, who is working with REC, told NMG. “Clashes have spread into southern Rakhine State. Donors cannot send their assistance to those IDPs. The situation is such that donors cannot afford to provide assistance to all of the IDPs.”

According to REC’s report, there are 37,202 IDPs in various camps but 69,412 IDPs are staying outside of camps, so many do not have appropriate shelter.

“Land plots are limited, so new IDPs are struggling to find a place to stay. Some IDPs are staying in their relatives’ home. A few people can afford to rent rooms. The major problem is limited land space,” Zaw Zaw Tun explained, adding that the Burma Army has restricted IDPs’ travel, citing security reasons.

Soldiers interrogate those passing through the area, so it is difficult to bring assistance into a conflict-affected area, locals said.

“I haven’t gone to the IDP camps for so long. Clashes are ongoing. Soldiers arrest and investigate people, so it is difficult to travel,” Kyaw Hla Myint, who lives in Kyauktaw town, said. “Soldiers launched a surprise check at the junction in downtown Kyauktaw today. Soldiers launched a regular check in downtown Kyauktaw, on the Yangon-Sittwe road, at a junction, and near Kispanady bridge. That’s why we haven’t visited IDP camps. I am afraid to visit.”

A local working with a civil society organizations told NMG on the condition of anonymity that travel in Rakhine State comes with a fear of arrest by the Burma Army.

“There are many checkpoints. Soldiers interrogate local villagers at checkpoints even though villagers are going to other nearby villages,” the individual explained. “We have to carry our ID card when we travel. If we cannot show our ID card when they check, we will be arrested, so we can be arrested at any time. Other ethnic people such as Burman and Chin are worried about whether AA troops will arrest them.”

On January 10, the Rakhine State government announced a ban on travel by INGOs and NGOs into villages in Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine State.

Zaw Zaw Tun said that the order was jointly made by the Ministry of Border Affairs, General Administration Department, and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

“The order is especially for INGOs. According to the statement, NGOs can go to the downtown areas but are not allowed to go to villages and remote area. The order affects both international and local staff. Donor organizations are worried about it,” he told NMG.

The AA reported that they recently had clashes with the Burma Army in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, and Myebon and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine State on January 24 and 25. Local civil society organizations have said that local people have fled their villages in these areas as a result of the fighting.

The REC called on the government, military and ethnic armed organizations to consider local suffering and seek resolution through dialogue. They reminded the elected government to protect the population, and asked them as well as domestic and international donor organizations to provide necessary aid to IDPs.