Rakhine State Locals Flee as Burmese Military Columns Enter Villages

Friday, May 8, 2020

Locals have fled multiple communities in Kyauktaw, Rathedaung and Minbya townships in Rakhine State as Burma Army troops have entered villages to interrogate residents.

Minbya parliamentarian Hla Thein Aung told NMG that Burmese soldiers had interrogated villagers in Ngasarai Chaung, Min Ywar and Htaunt Chay in his constituency.

“The Burmese military column came into three villages in Awa village-tract in Minbya Township. Soldiers checked every house in these villages,” Hla Thein Aung said. “Some villagers have fled their homes. Some villagers were sitting on the road because they were afraid of the soldiers. Villagers called me.”

The communities in question were around one mile from Ramaung bridge, where shellings have taken place and where a driver for the World Health Organization was killed while transporting coronavirus swabs for testing last month.

“Soldiers also investigated villagers in Hpapyin village in Awa village tract. Many villagers in these villages have already arrived in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps. Soldiers are interrogating the remaining villagers,” the MP said.

There were no recent clashes in Minbya Township preceding the increased military occupation of the villages and interrogation of the residents.

According to Hla Thein Aung, military columns were carrying out “clearance operations” and still searching houses as of this week.

“They entered the Kyauktaw bus terminal,” a local told NMG on the condition of anonymity, referring to government troops. “The bus terminal was closed. They broke into shops. They took things. They already broke into shops a few months ago. This is the second time. About 70-80 soldiers are still in the bus terminal.”

The fears of the military have overshadowed the prevention for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the individual said.

“Nobody dares to talk about COVID-19 awareness, wearing masks, or taking people’s body temperature at the entry and exit points of town,” the local explained. “The soldiers have now been in the bus terminal for two to three days. There have been no clashes in Kyauktaw in recent days.”

In Rathedaung, people reported facing similar troubles.

“A military column searched Zaytipyin and Shappyin villages in Rathedaung Township,” Rathedaung MP Khin Saw Wai told NMG. “Local people are afraid of the soldiers, so villagers flee when the military column comes into their village. All of the people in Shappyin have fled their village.”

Locals also said that the Burma Army set fire to two villages in Rathedaung Township on May 4—both the old Ngatauk Tuchay village and the new Ngatauk Tuchay village. More than 700 people have fled both communities.

NMG tried to contact officials from the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team for comment but nobody responded to the calls.